Retail theft, also known as shoplifting, is a common crime in Pittsburgh. This crime can be charged in a variety of ways, from a summary offense to a felony, depending upon the value of the stolen items and the number of previous shoplifting convictions the offender has. If you are arrested for retail theft, you need a Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney who is dedicated to you and seeing you get the best possible outcome for your case.
Facts About Retail Theft
Any one of the following things can lead to your arrest for retail theft:
- Switching out, changing, or removing the label or price tag from an item that is used to determine its price and is attached to the item, and then trying to purchase the item at a lower price with the intention of keeping the seller from gaining the full retail value of the item.
- Ringing up a sale at a lower price than full retail value with the intention of preventing the seller from gaining the full retail value of the item.
- Taking possession of an item offered for sale, or transferring that item to someone else, carrying it away yourself, or making someone else transfer or carry away an item offered for sale without paying full price for it. Also included here is merchandise that is held, displayed, or stored for sale.
- Transferring items that are displayed for sale from the original container to another one while intending to keep the seller from all or some of the full retail value of the items.
- Removing, deactivating, or destroying any mechanism or control tag that has been placed on an item to prevent it being stolen while intending to keep the seller from using, benefitting from, or possessing the item by not paying the full retail value of it.
If you purposely hide something you didn’t pay for while in any part of a store or on its property (sidewalk outside the store, parking lot, etc.) and you are found out, it will be assumed by store employees and by police that you hid it so you could shoplift it.
Store owners and employees who have reason to believe you have stolen merchandise have the right to detain you. They also have the right to recover any items you didn’t purchase.
If you are age 16 or older and have been charged with shoplifting, police will fingerprint you.
Retail Theft Offense Levels
Retail theft can be charged as anything from a summary offense to a misdemeanor, following the below general guidelines:
- Summary offense: first offense, value of items stolen is below $150
- Second-degree misdemeanor: second offense, value of items stolen is below $150
- First-degree misdemeanor: first or second offense, value of items stolen is $150 or more
- Third-degree felony: third or subsequent offense, without regard to the value of the items stolen
- Third-degree felony: value of items stolen is higher than $2,000, or if the stolen item is a motor vehicle or firearm
I was Arrested for Retail Theft! What do I do?
The first thing to remember if you are arrested for retail theft is to do your best not to make the arresting officer angry. Do not say anything, either to defend your innocence or to talk about what happened.
Do take these steps:
- If the prosecutor questions you, politely refuse to answer without your attorney by your side. They can and will twist what you tell them by taking it out of context, and will use it against you to make you look guilty when you are not.
- If the cops try to question you, tell them you want an attorney. Politely refuse to reply to their questions.
Want to Know More About Retail Theft Laws in Pennsylvania?
Definitions and descriptions of retail theft can be found in Title 18, Chapter 39 of the Pennsylvania Criminal Code.