If you're facing a conviction for retail theft or shoplifting or already have a shoplifting conviction on your record, you may think that a shoplifting conviction isn't a big deal. It's a common crime, isn't it? While it may be common, a summary offense or misdemeanor can remain on your record for a decade or more. For a felony shoplifting conviction, your record may follow you for the rest of your life.
Fortunately, Pennsylvania law offers second chances for mistakes. You may be eligible to obtain an expungement to remove your criminal record. Or, if you don't qualify for an expungement, you may qualify to limit public access to your records through sealing. In some cases, sealing may happen automatically, depending on whether you have a conviction or just an arrest without a conviction on your record. In other cases, you may be able to petition the court to seal your shoplifting record.
Pennsylvania Shoplifting Statute and Penalties
Under Pennsylvania law, you may face a conviction for retail theft or shoplifting if you:
- Take merchandise displayed, stored, or held for sale by a store or retail establishment, to deprive the store of the benefit or possession of the merchandise without paying “full retail value”
- Altering or removing a price tag to change the retail price of any merchandise
- Under ringing the price with the intent of depriving the retail establishment of the full retail value of the merchandise
- Moving merchandise from one container to another with the intent of depriving the retail establishment of the merchandise
- Destroying or removing security tags to deprive the retail establishment of the merchandise
See 18 Pa. Stat. § 3929 (2005). Shoplifting can be a summary offense, a misdemeanor, or a felony, depending on the value of the merchandise and whether it is a first or subsequent conviction for the crime.
- Summary Offense: Retail theft is a summary offense if it is your first conviction and the merchandise is valued at less than $150. In Pennsylvania, a summary offense is punishable by up to $1,500 in fines and up to three months in jail.
- Second-degree Misdemeanor: Retail theft becomes a second-degree misdemeanor if it is a second offense and the value of the merchandise is less than $150. A second-degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to a $5,000 fine and up to 12 months in jail.
- First-degree Misdemeanor: Retail theft becomes a first-degree misdemeanor if this is a first or second offense and the value of the merchandise is more than $150. A conviction for a first-degree misdemeanor in Pennsylvania is punishable by up to a $10,000 fine and up to 18 months in jail.
- Third-degree Felony: Retail theft is a third-degree felony in Pennsylvania if it is a third or subsequent offense, regardless of the value of the merchandise. This crime is also a third-degree felony if the value of the merchandise exceeds $1,000 or the merchandise is a vehicle or a firearm. A conviction for a third-degree felony is punishable by up to $15,000 in fines and three years in prison.
In determining the grade of the crime, the court may use aggregated values of merchandise stolen in one scheme or “course of conduct” from one store or multiple stores. The court will also include prior offenses in other states and similar convictions in Pennsylvania.
Convictions for shoplifting gasoline also carry additional legislatively-imposed penalties, depending on whether it is a first or subsequent conviction:
- First Offense: $100 to $250 additional fine
- Second Offense: Fines of $250 to $500
- Third or Subsequent Offense: $500 fine. The court may also suspend your driver's license for 30 days.
The judge does not have any power to reduce the legislatively-imposed penalties for shoplifting.
Sealing Your Shoplifting or Retail Theft Record in Pennsylvania
Under Pennsylvania law, you have several options for sealing a shoplifting conviction, depending on the grading of the crime. In some cases, you may be eligible for automatic record sealing through Pennsylvania's Clean Slate legislation. Or, you may be able to apply to seal your record under the state's Act 5 legislation.
- Clean Slate Automatic Sealing Pennsylvania's Clean Slate legislation is fairly new, but it now directs the court to automatically limit public access to your qualifying records ten years after you complete your sentence. You also must remain free from conviction of any additional crimes punishable by a year or more in prison. The court will seal some records automatically, including:
- Charges that don't end in a conviction
- Summary offense convictions after five years
- Second or third-degree misdemeanors
- First-degree misdemeanors punishable by two years or less in prison
Sealing a Shoplifting Conviction
If you have a retail theft or shoplifting conviction for a summary offense, a third-degree misdemeanor, or a second-degree misdemeanor, the state may automatically limit public access to your record under Clean Slate. Your record is eligible for sealing ten years after you complete your sentence and pay all fines. However, you can't have any additional convictions punishable by a year or more in jail.
If you have a summary conviction for shoplifting, you may be able to petition the court to seal your record sooner with Act 5 sealing. The waiting period before applying is only five years for summary offenses in Pennsylvania. You can also apply to seal misdemeanor shoplifting convictions ten years after you complete your sentence and pay your fines. However, if you have a summary conviction for shoplifting, you may be eligible to expunge the record, which is a better option. An experienced expungement and sealing attorney can advise you on the best course of action.
Hire an Experienced Pennsylvania Sealing Attorney
Determining the best process to clean up a shoplifting record can be challenging. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the skilled team at the Lento Law Firm have helped many Pennsylvanians seal or expunge their records, and they can help you too. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888.535.3686 to schedule a consultation or contact them online today.