When many people think of shoplifting, they think of something minor like taking a candy bar. In Levittown and throughout Bucks County, Pennsylvania - shoplifting or "retail theft" is a crime that carries serious penalties. It includes a broad range of activities that deprive a merchant. If you have been accused or charged with retail theft, an experienced Bucks County shoplifting attorney can help negotiate reduced charges or a plea, or take your case to trial, depending on your circumstances. Those that shoplift may also be sued in civil court by merchants.What Counts as Shoplifting in Levittown?
Pennsylvania law refers to shoplifting as "retail theft." The crime is committed if someone takes merchandise without paying, intending to deprive the merchant. It is also committed if someone, intending to deprive a merchant, removes or changes price tags, labels, or security devices on the merchandise; transfers more expensive merchandise into cheaper containers; or alters a cash register to make it charge less than the retail value of the item.
A store that suspects someone of shoplifting is permitted to detain someone for shoplifting if a representative has reasonable suspicion of that individual. The store is entitled to detain the individual while contacting law enforcement. Penalties for shoplifting vary depending on the value of the goods tampered with or stolen. For example, first-time shoplifting of items valued below $150 is a summary offense that can be punished with up to 90 days of jail time.
The potential penalties may dramatically increase if the merchandise taken is expensive or if you have prior convictions, regardless of value. For example, if you have two prior convictions and you are caught shoplifting merchandise, this is charged as a third-degree felony. You may be sentenced to up to 7 years in jail. Also, if you are caught stealing a firearm, regardless of its value, you can be charged with a third-degree felony and sentence of up to 7 years in jail.
Although jail time is a possibility, courts also may allow those who are accused for the first time of minor crimes like shoplifting to avoid criminal prosecution. Instead of jail, the accused person may be permitted to participate in an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program. Many of the people in ARD are first-time DUI offenders. However, it may be possible for your criminal defense attorney to negotiate for you to participate in this program if you are arrested for shoplifting as well. If the prosecutor accepts you, you can avoid criminal conviction by completing certain requirements like probation or restitution. If you are not permitted to participate in ARD, but there are evidentiary issues or you are a first time offender, your attorney may also be able to negotiate a favorable plea deal.
You should also be aware that merchants are permitted to bring civil lawsuits against adults who shoplift in order to recover damages. The amount that may be covered in those instances is the value of merchandise if not returned in original condition, actual damages arising from the shoplifting, reasonable court costs and attorneys fees.Contact a Skilled Shoplifting Lawyer
Experienced Bucks County shoplifting defense lawyer John M. Kenney can provide sound advice if you are arrested and charged in Levittown or surrounding areas. He will work hard to find evidentiary issues in your case and consider all possible defenses. It is possible, for example, that you inadvertently took an item and therefore had no intent to deprive the merchant. For a free initial consultation, contact him at (215) 547-3031 or by completing our online form. We serve clients in Bristol, Morrisville, Fairless Hills, Yardley, Langhorne and throughout Bucks County, Pennsylvania.