The mere acquisition of a theft by deception criminal charge can adversely affect your life prior to the commencement of a trial and a verdict. The stigma of being branded a thief in society will adversely affect your career, reputation, and the relationships you have with other people. Individuals may be reluctant to trust you and treat you differently than before you were associated with theft charges.
If you have been accused of committing a “theft by deception” offense, your first and immediate step should be to consult with an attorney. A legal professional - especially one with extensive trial experience - has acquired the skills to provide you with viable legal options, and will work towards making the appropriate strides for either a sentence reduction or getting your case completely dismissed. Your next step would be to gain a comprehensive understanding of the system you're up against. Theft offenses are charged unpredictably, ranging in charges of a misdemeanor to a felony for one instance. Knowing the theft laws and penalties in your state will help you identify the gravity of this offense.
Theft By Deception Laws in Pennsylvania
“Theft by deception” defined
Unlike “theft by unlawful taking,” and other variations of theft crimes, theft by deception is identified by the way in which the illegal act is carried out. According to Pennsylvania statutes, a person may be guilty of theft by deception if he or intentionally obtains or withholds another individual's property by deceiving them. State law references two forms of property in relation to theft crimes: movable property and immovable property.
Movable vs. Immovable Property
Movable property refers to property that an individual owns, that can be physically taken from them. If a defendant were to be accused of stealing a gaming system, jewelry, or any other tangible and removable property from another individual, it is considered movable property.
Immovable property is defined as fixed property that cannot be removed or transferred elsewhere. Some examples of immovable property are financial assets, real estate, retirement funds, services etc.
Despite the various elements that accompany theft crimes, the central element of a theft by deception offense is of deception. In order for a prosecutor to prove this offense beyond a reasonable doubt, he or she must provide comprehensive evidence that a defendant deliberately exhibited deceptiveness or misrepresentation in the commission of this crime.
Statutory law proceeds to provide multiple examples of deliberate behaviors that could be legally categorized as deceitful:
- Creating or reinforcing a false impression, including impressions about a law, value, intention or another state of mind
- Withholding information that would affect another individual's judgment of a transaction; or
- Failing to correct a false impression that was previously created or that they are aware is influencing someone in which they have a business or confidential relationship with
The Elevation of Theft Charges and Penalties
Theft crimes are unique in the aspect that their charges are solely based on the type and value of the property involved. Misinformed defendants oftentimes think that the amount of items sold will determine the severity of their sentence, but they are sorely mistaken. The value of each item will be considered in the weighing of your conviction sentence.
- Summary offense: if the property is worth less than $50 or there is no evidence as to the value of the property. This offense carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $300 fine.
- Second-degree misdemeanor: if the property is worth more than $50 but less than $200. This offense is punishable by a maximum prison term of no more than two years.
- First-degree misdemeanor: If the property is taken by force or threat (a robbery). Upon conviction, a person will be facing an imprisonment sentence that won't exceed five years.
- Third-degree felony: if the property stolen is a motor vehicle, such as a car, boat, motorcycle, or dirt bike or if the property is worth more than $2,000 and less than $500,000. This offense carries penalties of a maximum prison term of seven years.
- Second-degree felony: If the stolen property is a firearm, this crime is punishable by a maximum prison term of ten years.
- First-degree felony: if the prosecution can prove that the property stolen is a firearm and that the defendant in question had intentions of buying and selling firearms. A charge will also be elevated to the first degree if the stolen property is valued at $500,000 or more. Upon conviction, a person will be facing penalties of a minimum imprisonment term of at least 10 years.
Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney
Unfortunately, the criminal justice system doesn't the reflect the very “innocent until proven guilty” standard that it claims to uphold. The harsh reality of the state of the system is that it is designed to slight defendants. The duty of a criminal defense attorney is to level the playing field.
With over 15 years of experience, Joseph D. Lento has extensive experience representing clients of all demographics in Pennsylvania who have acquired both misdemeanor and felony theft charges. He understands that people make mistakes, and oftentimes don't deserve the full extent of the repercussions imposed. If you are currently in this situation, contact skilled Joseph D. Lento today at 215-535-5353.