In Pennsylvania, as in other states, the elements of the crime of theft are laid out in the statutes. First and foremost, it’s important to understand that theft is a crime that requires intent. A prosecutor must show that you knew or had reason to know that you did not have legal right to possess or hold the property. It must also be shown that you took, transferred or exercised dominion/control over the property with the specific intent to deprive the right owner of the use, possession or control of it. Furthermore, it’s not necessary that you actually removed if from the possession or dominion of the rightful owner. If you receive goods or property from a third party and either know or have reason to know that the goods are stolen, you can be charged with theft.
As in other jurisdictions, Pennsylvania makes a distinction among theft charges based on the value of the property stolen. If the total value is under $50, you can be charged with a summary offense and may have to pay a fine of up to $1,500. The charge will appear on a criminal record, so you need to take a summary offense seriously.
If the value is more than $50, but less than $200, it’s considered a misdemeanor in the second degree, with a penalty of up to two years in prison and a potential fine of as much as $5,000. If the value exceeds $200, but the crime is not a felony as defined in Pennsylvania law, it’s deemed a misdemeanor in the first degree, with penalties of up to five years of incarceration and a $10,000 fine.
Pennsylvania Felony Theft Offenses
A theft may be charged as a felony in Pennsylvania if the value of goods stolen exceeds $2,000, or if the theft is from a motor-propelled vehicle, including a car, truck, boat or airplane. Additionally, if you are in the business of buying and selling stolen goods, you can face felony theft charges.
Pennsylvania law also makes certain specific theft crimes felonies, including:
- Theft of a firearm
- Receiving a stolen firearm
- Theft of anhydrous ammonia
- Theft during a manmade or natural disaster, including a war-caused disaster
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