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. As an experienced PA retail theft lawyer, I will defend your rights and your future if you are facing a retail theft charge.
PA Retail Theft Defense 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.
PA Title 18 Retail Theft
You can find Pennsylvania’s retail theft law in the Pennsylvania Crimes Code under 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 3929. Under the statute, there are many circumstances in which the police may file a retail theft charge in Pennsylvania. Most PA retail theft cases involve people leaving the checkout or exit of the store without paying for store merchandise.
What is Retail Theft in PA?
Common examples of Pennsylvania retail theft crimes include:
- Leaving the store without paying for merchandise
- Leaving the self-checkout area without scanning all items
- Removing or deactivating a store security tag
- Removing a price tag from a store product
- Concealing unpurchased store merchandise on your person
- Under ringing store merchandise
Why 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. In many cases, the loss prevention employees have a minimal level of experience and are not trained in how to accurately detect and document retail theft crimes.
The security methods and identification procedures used by retail security employees are often unreliable and can be aggressively challenged in court. Despite this, many retail chains will actively pursue criminal prosecutions against any individuals suspected of shoplifting merchandise from their stores.
How is Artificial Intelligence 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. Most retail stores have AI software added to store security cameras, traditional store registers and self-checkout machines. Additionally, the AI software is programmed to analyze suspicious activity by a shopper based on more than different behavioral cues.
The suspicious behavioral cues can include a shopper’s hand movements, facial expressions, manner of walking (gait) and even shopping choices. The AI technology will alert a store employee when suspicious behavior is detected by a customer. A store associate or loss prevention officer will investigate to determine if the customer is shoplifting.
Is AI Retail Theft Technology Always Accurate?
No. In many cases, the AI software will alert store personnel through an app if a shopper demonstrates suspicious activity based on the program’s pre-set algorithm. Unfortunately, the artificial intelligence software is not 100% accurate. As a consequence, the artificial intelligence software does not have the capability to detect human error or other lawful, innocent explanations for suspicious behavior cues.
What is a False Positive at the Self-Checkout?
A false positive occurs when the self-checkout security system misinterprets innocent customer behavior as possible retail theft. Examples include situations in which the customer has actually scanned all of their items. Other false positives can occur when a customer fails to scan merchandise due to mistake, distraction or confusion. I will review the all of the evidence in your case to determine if a human error defense may apply.
Penalties for Retail Theft Charges in Pennsylvania
- 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
- Merchandise valued over $1,000 or if item is a firearm or a vehicle
- 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
- Insignificant or minor offense
I will also address the most frequently asked questions that arise in a retail theft case.
Is Your Retail Theft Case Related to Drug Addiction?
Many shoplifting and retail theft charges occur because of a simple mistake in judgement or are due in part to psychological disorders or drug addiction. Many individuals will benefit from completing a pre-trial drug and alcohol evaluation or mental health assessment. Furthermore, persons actively participating in appropriate mental health treatment or drug and alcohol counseling can benefit from rehabilitation process before the charges are resolved.
I am familiar with the available inpatient residential, residential and outpatient mental health and drug and alcohol treatment programs in Bucks County, Montgomery County and the surrounding Pennsylvania counties.
Why Pre-Trial Treatment Can Help Your Case
When mental health or substance abuse treatment is indicated, the successful completion or ongoing participation in counseling is beneficial in reaching a favorable resolution of the case.
The district attorney will be more likely to reduce your charges or potential sentence if your actively participating in a treatment plan. I will advise you of the most effective course of action if your retail theft charge was at least partially related to a drug or alcohol addiction or due to a psychological condition.
Bucks County CAP for Retail Theft Charges
The Community Accountability Program (CAP) is a pre-trial diversion program available to many first-time offenders charged with retail theft in Bucks County, PA. The program is administered through the Bucks County Magisterial District Courts. The majority of the police departments in Bucks County participate in CAP.
How Does CAP Work?
Participation in CAP must be approved by the police department and the district attorney. The police officer who filed the charges must submit a CAP application to the Bucks County District Attorney for consideration. The district court will notify an applicant if they are admitted into CAP.
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. In addition, the court costs for the CAP program are much lower than the court costs imposed on a case resolved in the court of common pleas.
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.
What are the Conditions of Bucks County CAP?
- 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.
PA ARD for Retail Theft
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.
Guiding You Through the ARD Application Process
ARD admission is granted at the discretion of the district attorney’s office. Individuals interested in the ARD Program must submit a written application to the District Attorney’s office. Each Pennsylvania county has different ARD application 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 give you the best chance of being approved for the program.
Expungement of a Retail Theft Record
In most PA counties, the requirements of the ARD program include completing a period of probation and community service. Persons who qualify for the ARD program must also 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.
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.