Pennsylvania Theft / Larceny Law
It is a crime in Pennsylvania to commit theft of another person’s property. Note that Pennsylvania uses the term theft instead of larceny to describe any taking of another’s property. To prove that the defendant has committed theft, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant unlawfully took, transferred or exercised control over another person’s property with the intent to deprive the owner of it. A person may also be found guilty of theft if they accept or receive stolen property that they know has been stolen and they do not have the intent to return it to its rightful owner.
A person is guilty of theft if he intentionally obtains or withholds property of another by deception. A person deceives if he intentionally:
- creates or reinforces a false impression, including false impressions as to law, value, intention or other state of mind; but deception as to a person’s intention to perform a promise shall not be inferred from the fact alone that he did not subsequently perform the promise;
- prevents another from acquiring information which would affect his judgment of a transaction; or
- fails to correct a false impression which the deceiver previously created or reinforced, or which the deceiver knows to be influencing another to whom he stands in a fiduciary or confidential relationship.
Pennsylvania defines various takings of property as theft. This includes:
- theft by deception (where the defendant intentionally withholds property of another by deceiving them);
- theft by extortion (where the defendant obtains or withholds property by threatening to harm the victim or commit another criminal offense);
- theft of services;
- theft of lost property (where the defendant fails to try to return the lost property to its rightful owner)
The penalty for theft in Pennsylvania varies depending on the amount or value of the property stolen. If the value is less than $50, the offense will be a summary offense. This is a less serious charge than a felony or misdemeanor. It is not actually a criminal conviction. However, it will show up on criminal record history checks and for that reason, should be taken very seriously. A summary offense may receive a sentence of up to ninety days in jail and/or a fine of anywhere between $25 and $1,500 depending on the degree or severity of the summary offense.
If the amount stolen is over $2,000, or the property stolen is a vehicle, vessel or airplane of any kind the charge is a second degree felony. If the stolen property is a firearm, it is a first degree felony. If the amount involved was $50 to less than $200, the charge is a third degree misdemeanor. Overall, there is no hard lined rule since the charge will depend on the circumstances of each case and the type of property stolen and its overall value. Penalties can range between 90 days in jail for the smaller offenses up to seven years in prison for major theft.