In the state of Pennsylvania, retail theft (also known as shoplifting) is a very serious criminal charge that can severely impact your future if you are convicted of the offense. A conviction for retail theft often remains on your criminal record forever and significantly limits your employment, educational, housing and financial opportunities. I can protect your rights and your future if you are facing a retail theft charge.
Bucks County Retail Theft Attorney
I have over a decade of experience providing skilled and aggressive representation to individuals charged with retail theft in Bucks County, Montgomery County and the surrounding counties. Contact me at (215) 752-5282 for a free initial consultation or fill out the confidential contact form for an immediate response. Appointments are available after business hours and on weekends.
Pennsylvania Retail Theft Law
Under 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 3929, a person commits the crime of retail theft if he or she:
- Takes possession of, carries away, transfers or causes to be carried away or transferred, any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale by any store or other retail mercantile establishment with the intention of depriving the merchant of the possession, use or benefit of such merchandise without paying the full retail value thereof; or
- Alters, transfers or removes any label, price tag marking, indicia of value or any other markings which aid in determining value affixed to any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale in a store or other retail mercantile establishment and attempts to purchase such merchandise personally or in consort with another at less than the full retail value with the intention of depriving the merchant of the full retail value of such merchandise; or
- Transfers any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale by any store or other retail mercantile establishment from the container in or on which the same shall be displayed to any other container with the intent to deprive the merchant of all or some part of the full retail value thereof; or
- Under-rings with the intention of depriving the merchant of the full retail value of the merchandise; or
- Destroys, removes, renders inoperative or deactivates any inventory control tag, security strip or any other mechanism designed or employed to prevent an offense under this section with the intention of depriving the merchant of the possession, use or benefit of such merchandise without paying the full retail value thereof
Why Retail Store Security Evidence is Often Unreliable
Retail stores often employ loss prevention specialists who actively monitor for shoplifting crimes using video surveillance devices and other security methods. The loss prevention employees often have minimal training in how to accurately detect and document retail theft crimes. However, many retail establishments will actively pursue criminal prosecutions against any individuals suspected of shoplifting merchandise from their stores.
Retail stores will also routinely file lawsuits against adult shoplifters and custodial parents of minor shoplifters in an effort to recover the value of the stolen merchandise, fines and attorney fees. The security methods and identification procedures used by retail security employees are often unreliable and can be vigorously challenged in court.
How Artificial Intelligence is Used in Retail Theft Security
A growing trend in retail theft prevention is the use of artificial intelligence (AI), which is often referred to as machine intelligence. A Japanese company named Vaak has developed artificial intelligence software currently being used in retail stores in Toyko, Japan. The AI software is added to store security cameras and is programmed to analyze suspicious activity by a shopper based on more than 100 behavioral cues.
The algorithm for the AI software was created by the developers by reviewing over 100 hours of store security video depicting honest shoppers as well as shoppers involved in theft. The suspicious behavioral cues can include a shopper’s hand movements, facial expressions, manner of walking (gait) and even clothing choices. The AI software will alert store personnel through an app if a shopper demonstrates suspicious activity based on the program’s algorithm. It is expected that many retail stores in the United States will begin implementing this type of AI software to combat shoplifting.
Retail Theft Related to Drug Addiction
I understand that many shoplifting and retail theft charges occur because of a simple mistake in judgment or due to psychological disorders or alcohol or drug addiction. In many cases, completing a mental health or drug and alcohol assessment is beneficial in uncovering the presence of any substance abuse or psychological issues that may have contributed to the retail theft crime. I am familiar with the available inpatient, residential and outpatient drug and alcohol treatment programs in Bucks County, Montgomery County and the surrounding counties.
Pre-Trial Drug and Alcohol Treatment in Retail Theft Cases
When treatment or counseling is indicated, the successful completion of a drug and alcohol or psychological counseling program prior to the trial can often result in a more favorable outcome for the case. I can advise you of the most effective course of action if your retail theft charge was related to a drug or alcohol addiction or due to a psychological condition.
Penalties for Retail Theft Charges in Pennsylvania
The penalties for a retail theft conviction will depend on the value of the merchandise you are accused of shoplifting and whether you have been previously convicted of any retail theft crimes. The penalties for a retail theft conviction are as follows:
- Items valued under $150 and a 1st offense
- Summary offense
- Up to 90 days in jail
- Fines of up to $300
- Items valued under $150 and a 2nd offense
- 2nd degree misdemeanor
- Up to 2 years in prison
- Fines of up to $5,000
- Items valued over $150 and a 1st or 2nd offense
- 1st degree misdemeanor
- Up to 5 years in prison
- Fines of up to $10,000
- Two prior retail theft convictions (regardless of the value of the item)
- 3rd degree felony
- Up to 7 years in prison
- Fines of up to $15,000
- Items valued over $1,000
- 3rd degree felony
- Up to 7 years in prison
- Fines of up to $15,000
Retail Theft Defense Strategies
I will thoroughly examine and investigate the facts of your case to identify any available defenses to contest the charges in court. Common defenses for retail theft charges may include any of the following:
- Mistaken identity
- Lack of intent to commit retail theft
- Inaccurate or unreliable video evidence
- Tainted eyewitness identification
- Deminimis crime
The particular facts of your case will determine the most effective legal strategy that can be used as a defense against the charges.
Community Accountability Program (CAP) for Retail Theft Charges
CAP is a pre-trial diversion program available to many first-time offenders charged with retail theft. The program is administered through the Bucks County Magisterial District Courts. The majority of the police departments in Bucks County participate in CAP. Participation in CAP must be approved by the police department and the district attorney. Individuals who successfully complete the CAP requirements will have their charges dismissed at the district court level.
Successful completion of the CAP requirements will result in the expungement of the retail theft charge. The majority of police departments in Bucks County will offer CAP admission to individuals charged with a summary retail theft offense as well as most misdemeanor retail theft charges. Applicants for the CAP program must reside in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Additional conditions of CAP include:
- 90-150 days of supervision
- Appearance before a community panel
- Waiver of speedy trial rights
- Case proceeds to preliminary if program conditions violated
- Eligible for subsequent ARD if CAP is for a summary offense
I am highly experienced in the CAP application and admissions requirements for retail theft cases. I can determine if your case qualifies for the Bucks County Community Accountability Program.
ARD for Retail Theft Charges
Even if the evidence against you is strong, there are often ways I can prevent the shoplifting charges from resulting in a criminal conviction. Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) is a program for 1st time, non-violent offenders. The ARD program is available to most individuals facing retail theft charges as a 1st time offense. Individuals who successfully complete the ARD program are eligible to have their charges dismissed and their records expunged. I have extensive experience assisting individuals with the application and admission process for the ARD program in Bucks County, Montgomery County and the surrounding counties.
ARD Application Process
ARD admission is granted at the discretion of the district attorney’s office and involves a formal application process with specific mandatory deadlines and pre-admission requirements. I am highly knowledgeable in the specific requirements for ARD admission in Bucks County, Montgomery County and the surrounding counties. I can assist you with the application process and ensure that the district attorney receives the appropriate information about your background and character to place you in the best position receive acceptance into the program.
Expungement of a Retail Theft Record
Requirements of the ARD program include completing a period of probation and participation in community service. The ARD program also requires that participants pay court costs, fines and restitution and remain arrest free during the probationary period. Individuals who successfully complete all of the requirements of the ARD program are eligible for expungement of the records of the case. I can assist you with the expungement application process if you have successfully completed the ARD program for a retail theft offense.
Criminal Record Seal for Retail Theft
Individuals who are not eligible for expungement of their retail theft case may be eligible for a criminal record seal. A criminal record seal will not result in the destruction of your criminal records but will prevent access to those records by employers, landlords and the public. A criminal record seal would prevent your retail theft conviction from appearing in a background check conducted for financial loans, employment or housing. I can determine if you are eligible for a criminal record seal for your retail theft offense.
Alternatives to ARD for Retail Theft Charges
A plea bargain to lesser charges may result in the best resolution of the case when the evidence is strong and admission into the ARD program is not possible. In some cases, I can negotiate with the police and district attorney to reduce the retail theft charges to less serious offenses. A successful plea bargain to reduced charges can often enable an individual to have the charges removed from their record through the expungement process. In some cases, a negotiated plea agreement in a retail theft case can be structured to ensure that the accused can avoid jail time and the other severe consequences of a conviction. I can review the circumstances and evidence in your case to determine if a plea agreement can be negotiated to produce a successful resolution of your charges.
Start with a Strong Defense
If you have been charged with retail theft in Bucks County, Montgomery County and the surrounding counties, it is critical to act quickly to protect your rights and build the strongest possible defense against the charges. Phone lines are open 24 hours a day at (215) 752-5282. Call today for a free initial consultation or fill out the confidential contact form for an immediate response.