Getting a Shoplifting Charge Expunged in Pennsylvania
An arrest or conviction in Pennsylvania can have long-term consequences beyond a fine, probation, or a jail term. It can affect your future professional prospects, educational prospects, and ability to obtain loans, financial aid, or even a rental apartment. Fortunately, in Pennsylvania, we believe in second chances, and the legislature created a process to remove some criminal records. An expungement is an order from a Pennsylvania court ordering the destruction of all administrative and court records related to an arrest, charge, or conviction in the state.
What Can You Expunge in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, you can expunge a summary offense if you've been free from arrest or prosecution for five years. A summary offense is a minor crime, less serious than a misdemeanor or felony. In Pennsylvania, the maximum penalty for a summary offense is 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,500. However, typically a summary offense conviction will result in just a fine.
You can also expunge a crime for which you were charged but never convicted. Non-convictions include not guilty verdicts, dropped or dismissed charges, and nolle prossed dispositions. You cannot expunge a misdemeanor or felony conviction in Pennsylvania (unless 70 years of age or deceased and other conditions are met), but you may be able to have convictions sealed in some cases.
Shoplifting or "Retail Theft" in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, shoplifting is called "retail theft." Retail theft is a summary offense if it is the first offense, and the value of the merchandise is less than $150. See 18 Pa. Code § 3929(b)(1)(i) (2013). Typically, you can expunge a "summary offense retail theft" conviction.
The Pennsylvania Criminal Code defines retail theft as:
A person is guilty of a retail theft if he:
(1) 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;
(2) 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;
(3) 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 intent to deprive the merchant of all or some part of the full retail value thereof; or
(4) under-rings with the intention of depriving the merchant of the full retail value of the merchandise.
(5) 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.
If the merchandise value exceeds $150 or the charge isn't your first offense, the police will likely charge you with a misdemeanor or a felony. The severity of the charge will depend on the value of the merchandise and your prior criminal convictions.
Can I Expunge a Shoplifting Charge?
In Pennsylvania, you can obtain an expungement of a retail theft charge if:
- You were convicted of retail offense summary offense if you've been free from arrest or prosecution for five years,
- You were charged but never convicted of a summary offense, misdemeanor, or felony retail theft charge, including not guilty verdicts, charges that were withdrawn or dismissed, or nolle prossed dispositions, or
- You went through a diversionary program where you completed probation without conviction.
You cannot expunge misdemeanor and felony retail theft convictions unless:
- You are at least 70 years old, and ten years have passed since the criminal proceedings, or
- The subject of the criminal record has been dead for at least three years.
If you don't meet one of the criteria above, you probably can't have the crime expunged. You must apply to have those records sealed or request a pardon.
Juvenile Shoplifting Convictions
In some cases, Pennsylvania does permit you to expunge convictions, including "summary offense retail theft" convictions, if you were under 18 at the time of the conviction. You are more likely to obtain expungement of a juvenile retail theft charge if you are now over 18, it's been at least six months since you completed your sentence, and you haven't faced any additional felony or misdemeanor charges. Alternatively, you may be able to expunge your juvenile conviction if it's been at least five years since your discharge and you haven't faced any additional felony or misdemeanor charges. There are a few other situations where you can have juvenile charges expunged. An experienced Pennsylvania expunction attorney can assist you.
Hire a Pennsylvania Attorney Experienced in Expunctions
The best way to protect your records and regain your maximum future career potential is to consult a skilled Pennsylvania expungement attorney. Attorney Joseph D. Lento is an experienced criminal defense attorney proficient in helping clients expunge criminal records. He can help. Give the Lento Law Firm a call at 888-535-3686.