Many people mistakenly think that a retail theft charge for stealing a pack of gum, a pair of earrings, or something as simple as a sandwich is not a big deal. While the charge may only be a summary offense, meaning the person generally only pays a fine and is not facing jail time, a retail theft conviction can have a long-term impact on one's future based upon the stigma attached with being labeled a thief and dishonest person.
In order to consider the total severity and impact of a retail theft conviction, you must consider both the direct criminal sentence and also the long-term collateral consequences associated with a conviction.
The direct criminal sentence means the punishment imposed by the court. The severity of a retail theft conviction is primarily based upon the value of the items taken and the number of prior retail theft convictions. A sentence may include payment of fines, costs, and restitution, and a conviction could result in a sentence of probation or even jail time.
Collateral consequences are additional sanctions that stem from a conviction. With regard to a retail theft, a critical collateral consequence for a conviction is the criminal record. For all charges of retail theft, including summary offenses, a person must be fingerprinted, which means that the person will have a criminal record that will be discovered by practically all criminal background searches. Having any theft-related offense on one's record is highly likely to make it more difficult to obtain employment in the future.
What Is the Difference Between Retail Theft and Other Theft Offenses?
The easiest way to explain the distinction between retail theft and other theft charges is that retail theft generally refers to the taking of merchandise from a store without paying full price. Retail theft, set forth in 18 Pa.C.S. § 3929, prohibits a person from taking merchandise from any store or retail establishment with the intention of depriving the owner of possession and not paying the full retail price. If the theft offense does not involve a store or theft of retail merchandise, then a different theft charge, such as theft by unlawful taking or theft of services, is filed, and the grading of theft offenses is quite different from retail theft.
Free Initial Consultation With an Experienced State College Lawyer
For a free consultation directly with an experienced retail theft defense attorney, please call 814-954-1094 or contact us by email. We accept MasterCard, Visa and Discover. Our office is located one block from the main campus of Penn State in downtown State College.