No one wants a criminal record that includes a shoplifting conviction, so if you’re charged with shoplifting in or near Philadelphia, you must be advised and defended by a Philadelphia shoplifting attorney.

Shoplifting is this nation’s number one property crime. More than $13 billion worth of merchandise is shoplifted in the United States every year. That’s $35 million a day. However, only three percent of the persons charged with shoplifting are “professional” shoplifters.

What constitutes shoplifting in the State of Pennsylvania, and what are your rights if you face a shoplifting charge? What steps will you need to take? Keep reading this brief discussion of shoplifting in Pennsylvania, your rights, and the law, and these questions will be answered below.

How Is Shoplifting Defined?

Pennsylvania defines shoplifting as “retail theft,” and shoplifting is considered separately from this state’s other laws against theft. “Retail theft” is taking one or more items from a retailer with the intention of depriving the retailer of the merchandise’s benefit, use, or full value. Shoplifting or retail theft in Pennsylvania includes:

  1. taking items from a retailer while failing to pay the full retail price
  2. removing or changing price labels
  3. moving merchandise into other containers, bags, or boxes to avoid paying the full price
  4. manipulating a security device
  5. tampering with a cash register or sales system to ring up an item below its full retail price

If you’re charged with shoplifting or any property crime in or near Philadelphia, you must be represented by a reliable Philadelphia shoplifting lawyer, and you’ll need to speak with that attorney immediately.

Can a Shoplifting Conviction Put You in Jail?

Pennsylvania courts can order jail time for convicted shoplifters. If someone charged with shoplifting has no previous retail theft convictions, and if the value of the stolen merchandise is below $150, the crime is a “summary offense” that may be penalized with jail and a stiff fine.

A second retail theft offense, if the value of the stolen merchandise is below $150, is a second-degree misdemeanor. A second offense, if the value of the stolen merchandise exceeds $150, is a first-degree misdemeanor. Convictions are penalized with a jail term and a fine.

However, if someone accused of shoplifting has two or more previous retail theft convictions, and if the value of the stolen items is or exceeds $1000, or if the stolen item is a motor vehicle or a firearm, retail theft is a third-degree felony charge punishable with a number of years in prison.

How Will an Attorney Help You?

To convict you of shoplifting, a prosecutor must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. A Philadelphia shoplifting attorney can develop an aggressive and effective defense strategy that casts doubt on the prosecutor’s case.

If you actually believed the merchandise was yours, if it was in your purse or bag by mistake, or if you absent-mindedly left a store without paying for merchandise, your attorney may claim that you did not intend to steal any items and you lacked any criminal intent.

If you were mistaken for another person, you may have to present evidence that you were in another location when the shoplifting occurred – in other words, you’ll need an alibi.

Don’t take chances with your freedom and your future. To learn more about shoplifting, the law, and your rights – or if you’ve been charged with shoplifting and you need legal help at once – contact a Philadelphia shoplifting lawyer immediately.