Pennsylvania Shoplifting Laws
Shoplifting typically involves a theft or a larceny from a retailer. Pennsylvania’s shoplifting laws are categorized under the retail theft law, separate from the other theft laws in the state. When a person carries away, or transfers, any merchandise by a store or other retail entity with the intent of depriving the merchant of the use and benefit of the property, he or she has committed a retail theft.
The penalties for retail theft increase as the cash value of the merchandise increases; the penalties also depend on the criminal history of the actor and will increase due to prior offenses.
A person is guilty of retail theft when he or she (with the intent to deprive the merchant of the possession and the benefit of the merchandise) does any of the following:
- Takes possession of or carries away any merchandise from a retail establishment without paying the full retail value
- Changes or removes price tags or labels
- Transfers merchandise into new containers to avoid paying the full retail value
- Manipulates a cash register to “under ring” an item
- Tampers with security devices
- Summary Offense: If it’s a first offense and the theft involves retail merchandise valued at less than $150. Penalty: sentence of up to 90 days in jail with fines of up to $300.
- Second Degree Misdemeanor: If it’s a theft of merchandise valued at less than $150 with one prior offense. Penalty: sentence of up to 2 years in jail with fines of up to $5,000.
- First Degree Misdemeanor: If it’s a theft of merchandise valued at $150 or more with no more than one prior offense. Penalty: sentence of up to 5 years in jail with fines of up to $10,000.
- Third Degree Felony: If it’s a theft with a third or subsequent offense, regardless of the monetary value of the merchandise or a theft of merchandise valued at more than $1,000 or theft of a firearm. Penalty: sentence of up to 7 years in jail with fines of up to $15,000.