There are a variety of reasons why people commit theft. Some do it as a means to survive. The penalties of a theft crime do not outweigh the benefits of taking an item if you are deprived of an essential need. Some individuals may have genuinely made a mistake or took something by accident. You may have taken something absentmindedly, yet the owner of that item perceived your actions as intentional. Others may steal due to mere convenience. Theft crimes oftentimes aren't thoroughly planned out and executed, this decision is made out of impulse. Whatever the reason may be for committing this criminal act, law enforcement and the courts likely won't care. The only factors that matter in court are your actions, and if these actions ultimately constitute the crime of theft, known in Pennsylvania as theft by unlawful taking.
If you have been accused of committing the crime of unlawful taking, your first step should be to consult with an attorney. An attorney can provide you with viable legal options, and work towards getting the sentence your facing reduced, or getting your case completely dismissed. Your next step would be to see what you're up against. Theft offenses are unpredictable in nature, ranging from charges of a misdemeanor to a felony for one instance. It's important you understand the state of Pennsylvania's unlawful taking laws and penalties.
Theft By Unlawful Taking Laws in Pennsylvania
Theft by lawful taking is one of the most charged crime theft offenses in Pennsylvania state court. When a person exercises unlawful control over the property of another with intentions of depriving that person thereof, he or she technically constitutes the crime of unlawful theft. In simpler terms, it is the act of taking property that doesn't belong to you with the intent to keep it permanently.Unlawful theft is not to be mistaken for retail theft, which is theft committed in an establishment setting.
Movable vs. Immovable Property
Under Pennsylvania law, theft by unlawful taking is divided into two categories pertaining to movable and unmovable property.
Movable property is defined as property that an individual owns, that can be physically taken along with them.
Example: A person accused of taking a diamond necklace from roommate's jewelry box without their permission would be facing allegations of stealing movable property.
Immovable property refers to property that has a fixed location and cannot be moved or transferred elsewhere. Immovable property is oftentimes characterized as things that are intangible like stock ownership or financial assets. This is a white collar crime.
Example: If someone were to transfer the deed to real estate to themselves without permission from the estate owner, this action would be considered as the unlawful taking of immovable property.
Elevation of Theft Charges and Penalties
As indicated above, a theft by unlawful taking offense is charged based on the type and value of the property involved. A small detail in a case can quickly elevate what defendants think is a misdemeanor crime to a felony crime.
- 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 property stolen 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
There are a broad span of actions that could potentially constitute a theft crime. Theft by unlawful taking is only one version of the various theft crimes the state of Pennsylvania prosecutes. The nature of theft laws make acquiring a felony a relatively easy task, exposing you to severe penalties that will ruin your reputation, empty your pockets, and more importantly, compromise your freedom. Don't let a moment of impulse or misunderstanding become the reason you create or add to a criminal record. Make contacting an attorney a priority.
With over 15 years of experience, Joseph D. Lento has successfully represented clients who have acquired both misdemeanor and felony theft offenses. He can give you valid legal options, and provide you many defenses that could be potentially applicable to your case. For a maximized chance of receiving a favorable outcome in your case, contact him today 215-535-5353.