When facing a criminal charge, it can be hard to look beyond the immediate consequences of a conviction, such as possible jail time and hefty fines. But a criminal record can follow you for years, limiting your educational and career options. Fortunately, we believe in second chances in Pennsylvania, and state law allows several options for sealing your record from public view.
Pennsylvania Statute Concerning Theft of Services
You may be charged with theft of services in Pennsylvania if you intentionally “obtain services” for yourself or someone else that you know “are available only for compensation,” by:
- Deception or threat,
- Altering or tampering with, or allowing or causing someone to alter or tamper with, the public utility meter or measuring device that delivers the services,
- Making or maintaining any unauthorized connection physically, electrically, or inductively to a distribution or transmission line,
- Attaching or maintaining the attachment of an unauthorized device to a cable, wire, or other components of an electric, telephone, or cable television service or to a television receiving set connected to a cable television system,
- Making or maintaining any unauthorized modification or alteration to any device installed by a cable television system, or
- Using a false token or other trick or artifice to avoid payment for the service.
You may also face charges for theft if you “intentionally obtain or attempt to obtain telecommunication service” by using an unlawful telecommunication device or without the consent of the service provider.
You could also face theft of services charges if you refuse to pay, abscond without payment, or use an offer to pay in a way that gives rise to a presumption that you obtained the services by deception. This statute section applies when you normally pay compensation for services immediately after receiving the service, such as at a restaurant or hotel.
18 Pa. Stat. § 3926 (1995)
Pennsylvania Penalties for Theft of Services
Typically, theft of services in Pennsylvania is a summary offense, which is less serious than a misdemeanor. However, if the value of the services “obtained or diverted” is $50 or more, the grading of the offense falls under the same rules as theft of non-services.
Penalties for Misdemeanor Theft of Services
The penalty for misdemeanor theft of services will vary based on the facts and circumstances of your case and the value of the services you received.
- First-Degree Misdemeanor: If the services were taken by threat and the value exceeded $50, theft of services is a first-degree misdemeanor. Under Pennsylvania law, the penalty for a first-degree misdemeanor conviction is a fine of $1,500 to $10,000 and up to five years in prison.
- Second-Degree Misdemeanor: If the services weren't taken by threat and the value of the services is over $50 and up to $200, it is a second-degree misdemeanor.A second-degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to two years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
If you have a misdemeanor conviction for theft of services in Pennsylvania, you may be able to seal your record automatically through the state's Clean Slate legislation or petition the court to seal your records under Act 5.
Penalties for Felony Theft of Services
Whether theft of services will be a felony charge depends on the value of the services you received.
- First-Degree Felony: If the value of the services you received is more than $500,000, it is a first-degree felony. Under Pennsylvania law, a first-degree felony is punishable by ten to 20 years in prison and up to a $25,000 fine.
- Second-Degree Felony: If the value of the services you received is less than $500,000 but at least $100,000, or if the theft of services happened during a man-made or natural disaster. The penalty for a second-degree felony conviction in Pennsylvania is up to ten years in prison and a fine of $2,500 to $10,000.
- Third-Degree Felony: Theft of services is a third-degree felony charge if the value of the services received exceeds $2,000 and is less than $100,000. The penalty for a second-degree felony conviction in Pennsylvania is a fine of $2,500 to $10,000 and up to seven years in prison.
If you have a felony conviction for theft of services in Pennsylvania, you can't typically seal or expunge your criminal record.
Sealing Your Pennsylvania Theft of Services Misdemeanor Conviction Through Clean Slate
In 2019, the state passed groundbreaking new legislation allowing people with criminal arrests and court records to clean the slate. The new “Clean Slate” legislation makes sealing a record easier and accessible to more people. Before the state passed this legislation, many people who qualified to seal their records never applied. Now, state courts will automatically seal your record if you qualify.
You may qualify for automatic record sealing under Clean Slate if:
- Your conviction was for a summary offense, a charge less serious than a misdemeanor,
- The court did not convict you because the prosecutor dropped the charges or the court found you not guilty,
- Your conviction was for a second-degree or third-degree misdemeanor,
- Your conviction was for a misdemeanor punishable by only two years or less in prison.
Sealing Your Pennsylvania Misdemeanor Theft of Services Record with an Act 5 Petition
If you have a first-degree misdemeanor conviction for theft of services, you may not qualify to seal your record under Clean Slate automatically. However, you may be able to seal your record using Pennsylvania's Act 5. While Act 5 is not automatic, it applies to a wider range of misdemeanor convictions than the Clean Slate legislation. However, Act 5 sealing doesn't happen automatically; you must petition the court to seal your record.
You may qualify to seal your records under Act 5 if:
- Your conviction was for a misdemeanor or ungraded conviction that was punishable by five years or less in prison,
- You've waited ten years since completing your sentence and paid your fines,
- It's been ten years since you completed your sentence and paid all fines,
- During the ten-year waiting period, you don't have any additional arrests or prosecutions punishable by a year or more in jail.
Can I Seal a Felony Record for Theft of Services?
Under Pennsylvania law, if you have a felony conviction for theft of services, you can't seal or expunge your record, except in a few very limited situations.
- If you receive a from the Governor, you can then apply to expunge your record.
- If you are 70 or older, and it's been ten years since your criminal proceedings, you may qualify to expunge your felony record.
- Someone may also be eligible to expunge the felony record of a defendant who has been dead for at least three years.
You Need an Experienced Pennsylvania Sealing Attorney
If you have a conviction for theft of services in Pennsylvania, it can be difficult to understand all the possible options for sealing or expunging your record. You need an experienced Pennsylvania sealing and expungement lawyer. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his skilled team at the Lento Law Firm have been helping Pennsylvanians seal their records for years. Find out how they can help you too. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888.535.3686 to schedule your consultation, or contact them online today.