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THEFT DEFENSE LAWYERS IN WILKES-BARRE, PA

THEFT DEFENSE LAWYERS IN WILKES-BARRE, PA

PA Theft Offense Lawyers

Thank you for visiting Lampman Law. If you or someone you love is facing theft charges in Pennsylvania, we can help. We are experienced criminal defense lawyers that are in district and trial courts daily representing people charged with crimes throughout Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania. Since Lampman Law opened we have zealously defended people facing theft accusations and have helped our clients avoid the criminal consequences and social stigma of a theft conviction.

If you would like us to examine a theft case, please call Lampman Law at 570-371-3737 to personally discuss the matter with us. We offer a free phone or in-office consultation. All consultations are also welcoming, free of pressure, and confidential.   

Overview of Pennsylvania Theft Laws

This article is an overview of Pennsylvania’s rules concerning theft offenses. While theft is a universally understood concept, the rules and laws seeking to define, prevent, and punish thefts is extremely complex. Chapter 39 of Pennsylvania’s crimes code covers the definitions, grading, and arrest rules for theft offenses. It also outlines seventeen (17) specific types of thefts. Within most of those crimes, there are multiple gradings, offense gravity scores, and a wide range in possible punishments. Therefore, while some theft offenses warrant separate analysis, many of the specific theft crimes simply conceptualize distinct acts to commit a theft but apply the same punishment formula.

§ 3921. Theft by Unlawful Taking or Disposition 

§ 3922. Theft by Deception

§ 3923. Theft by Extortion 

§ 3924. Theft by Property Lost, Mislaid, or Delivered by Mistake 

§ 3925. Receiving Stolen Property

§ 3926. Theft of Services

§ 3927. Failure to Make Required Disposition of Funds Received 

§ 3928. Unauthorized Use of Automobiles and Other Vehicles

§ 3929. Retail Theft

§ 3929.1. Library Theft

§ 3929.2. Possession of Retail Theft Instruments 

§ 3929.3. Organized Retail Theft

§ 3930. Theft of Trade Secrets

§ 3931. Theft of Unpublished Dramas & Music

§ 3932. Theft of Leased Property

§ 3934. Theft from a Motor Vehicle

§ 3935.1. Theft of Secondary Metal

Factors Impacting Punishment of Theft Offenses

In general, the factors that impact the severity of punishment for a theft offense are:

 

  • the item’s value or amount of money involved; 

  • whether the item at issue is a firearm, anhydrous ammonia, or a vehicle; 

  • whether the accused breached fiduciary duty; and/or, 

  • whether threats were used to complete the crime. 

In other words, with many theft offenses, regardless of the statutory section the Commonwealth charges, the penalty is set by the value of the theft and how the crime was committed. Proof of theft, per se, is sufficient to establish commission of the crime, whether theft by deception or theft by failure to make required disposition of funds received, the manner of taking simply being the specific details of the theft and not constituting different elements of the crime.  Commonwealth v. Robichow, 487 A.2d 1000 (Pa. Super.1985). 

Nevertheless, the Commonwealth must provide a defendant with fair notice of the specific offense charged to protect against prejudice by surprise. See18 Pa.C.S. § 3902; Commonwealth. v. Lewis, 445 A.2d 798 (Pa. Super.1982). 

18 Pa.C.S. § 3903 -Grading of Theft Offenses

Pennsylvania generally grades theft offenses as felonies or misdemeanors. Certain theft offenses are specifically graded as summary offenses by statute. 

First Degree Felony Thefts (F1)  

A felony of the first degree carries the most severe penalties. In general, (F1) convictions are punishable by a maximum of 20 years imprisonment and a $25,000 fine. 

A theft offense is graded as a (F1) when:

  • The amount involved is $500,000 or more; or
     

  • In the case of theft by receiving stolen property, the property received, retained or disposed of is a firearm and the receiver is in the business of buying or selling stolen property.

Second Degree Felony Thefts (F2)  

A felony of the second degree is punishable by a maximum of 10 years imprisonment and a $25,000 fine.

A theft offense is graded as a (F2) when:

  • The amount involved is $100,000 or more but less than $500,000.
     

  • The property stolen is a firearm.
     

  • In the case of theft by receiving stolen property, the property received, retained or disposed of is a firearm.
     

  • The property stolen is anhydrous ammonia.
     

  • The offense is committed during a manmade disaster, a natural disaster or a war-caused disaster and constitutes a violation of section 3921 (relating to theft by unlawful taking or disposition), 3925 (relating to receiving stolen property), 3928 (relating to unauthorized use of automobiles and other vehicles) or 3929 (relating to retail theft).

Third Degree Felony Thefts (F3) 

 

A felony of the third degree is punishable by a maximum of 7 years imprisonment and a $15,000 fine.

A theft offense is graded as a (F3) when:

  • The amount involved exceeds $2,000.
     

  • The property stolen is an automobile, airplane, motorcycle, motorboat or other motor-propelled vehicle.
     

  • In the case of theft by receiving stolen property, if the receiver is in the business of buying or selling stolen property.

Misdemeanor of the First-Degree Thefts (M1)

A misdemeanor of the first degree is punishable by a maximum of 5 years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.

A theft offense is graded as a (M1) when:

  • The amount involved is $200 or more but less than $2,000.

Misdemeanor of the Second-Degree Thefts (M2)

A misdemeanor of the second degree is punishable by a maximum of 2 years imprisonment and a $5,000 fine.

A theft offense is graded as a (M2) when:

  • The property was not taken from the person or by threat, or in breach of fiduciary obligation, and;
     

  • the amount involved was $50 or more but less than $200.

Misdemeanor of the Third-Degree Thefts (M3)

A misdemeanor of the third degree is punishable by a maximum of 1-year imprisonment and a $2,000 fine.

A theft offense is graded as a (M3) when:

  • The property was not taken from the person or by threat, or in breach of fiduciary obligation, and;
     

  • the amount involved was less than $50.

Valuation of the Property

Challenging the Commonwealth’s valuation of the property or funds at issue is an essential and extremely important aspect of defending theft cases. 

The law sets the value in theft prosecutions as follows:

  • The market value of the property at the time and place of the crime. If such cannot be satisfactorily ascertained, the cost of replacement of the property within a reasonable time after the crime.
     

  • A check, draft or promissory note, shall be deemed the amount due or collectible thereon or thereby, such figure ordinarily being the face amount of the indebtedness less any portion thereof which has been satisfied.
     

  • Any valuable legal right, privilege or obligation shall be deemed the greatest amount of economic loss which the owner of the instrument might reasonably suffer by virtue of the loss of the instrument.
     

  • When the value of property cannot be satisfactorily ascertained its value shall be deemed to be an amount less than $50.
     

  • Amounts involved in thefts committed pursuant to one scheme or course of conduct, whether from the same person or several persons, may be aggregated in determining the grade of the offense.

Offense Gravity Score (OGS) of Theft Crimes

In Pennsylvania, courts must consider and, in general, must follow the sentencing guidelines. For a court to legally deviate from the sentencing guidelines, it must explain the reasoning for the deviation at the time of sentencing. 

 

Each criminal in Pennsylvania is assigned an offense gravity score. OGS is a number ranging from 1 to 14. Crimes with an OGS of 1 (e.g., thefts under $50, Small Amount of Marihuana) have the lowest ranges of penalties, while offenses with an OGS of 14 (e.g., 3rdDegree Murder, Rape of a Child) have the highest ranges of penalties on the basic sentencing matrix. 

 

Likewise, every defendant in Pennsylvania has a prior record score (PRS). PRS range numerically from 0 to 5 and there are also repeat felon and repeat violent offender categories.   

 

The standard range sentence is found by where the vertical access (OGS) and the horizontal access (PRS) meet on the basic sentencing matrix. The standard range is the starting point for a court’s sentencing consideration. Accordingly, the OGS of an offense is tremendously important. 

 

Thefts Offenses with OGS 8

 

The most serious theft cases have an OGS of 8. These cases must involve: 

 

  • $500,000 or more;

  • Firearm;

  • Anhydrous Ammonia; or

  • Be committed during a disaster.

 

Thefts Offenses with OGS 7

 

Thefts cases have an OGS of 7, when they involve: 

 

  • $100,000 or more but less than $500,000;

  • Theft of trade secrets by force, willful entry of building, or access to a computer;

Thefts Offenses with OGS 6

Thefts cases have an OGS of 6, when they involve:

  • $25,000 or more but less than $100,000;

  • Motorized Vehicle;

  • Organized Retail Theft $5,000 or more but less than $19,999; or

  • Theft from a Motor Vehicle (3rdor subsequent offense w/in 5 years).

Thefts Offenses with OGS 5

 

Thefts cases have an OGS of 5, when they involve:

  • $2,000 or more but less than $25,000;

  • Retail Thefts involving more than $1,000, a firearm or motor vehicle;

  • Library Theft (3rd or subsequent offense);

  • Theft of Trade Secrets by unlawful possession or conversion; or

  • Theft of Unpublished Drama $2,000 or more.

 

Thefts Offenses with OGS 4

 

Thefts cases have an OGS of 4, when they involve:

  • Theft by Extortion more than $200 or more but less than $2,000.

Thefts Offenses with OGS 3

 

Thefts cases have an OGS of 3, when they involve:
 

  • $200 or more but less than $2,000;

  • Retail Theft (3rd or subsequent offense);

  • Unlawful Possession of Instruments of Retail or Library Theft;

  • Theft of Unpublished Drama $200 or more but less than $2,000; or

  • Theft from a Motor Vehicle more than $200.

Thefts Offenses with OGS 2

 

Thefts cases have an OGS of 2, when they involve:

  • $50 or more but less than $200

  • Retail Theft $150 or less (1st or 2nd Offense)

  • Library Theft less than $150 and 2nd Offense

  • Theft of Unpublished Drama at least $50 but less than $200; or

  • Theft from a Motor Vehicle at least $50 but less than $200.

Thefts Offenses with OGS 1

 

Thefts cases have an OGS of 1, when they involve:

  • Less than $50;

  • No threat.​

Theft Offense Diversion Programs & Repayment Dispositions

Diversion programs offer an alternative to trial or entering a guilty plea. Depending on the facts and circumstances of an allegation, and the accused prior criminal record, a theft case may be resolved with a diversionary program or disposition. 

If eligible, the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program allows an offender to earn dismissal of the charges once restitution and court costs are paid in full and a term of probation (up to 2 years) is satisfied. Cases that successfully complete ARD are eligible for expungement. 

The Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure also permit certain cases to be dismissed upon the accused making full restitution to the victim and paying the costs of prosecution. Since this rule does not require any period of probation, it may lead to a more expedite expungement of the arrest record and may be a better option than ARD. 

Lampman Law Defends Theft Cases

 

When charged with any theft crime in PA, it is extremely important to timely hire an experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense. As explained, theft cases are complex and the accused’s freedom and other important rights are at risk.

 

​When choosing a lawyer, it is important to seek the services of a lawyer that primarily practices criminal defense and that the lawyer has personally handled theft cases in the county where the charge is being prosecuted. Likewise, it is vital that the lawyer understands and can conduct a full investigation into the facts and circumstances of the allegation.

Hiring the right criminal defense lawyer, as soon as possible, can help the accused build their case by gathering the evidence to build a robust defense. In sum, it is the best chance for an accused to preserve their liberty, legal rights, and their reputation. 

 

​Please contact us at 570-371-3737 if you have any questions. Should you choose to trust us with your case, our fees are reasonable, we always use detailed written fee agreements, and payment plans (including credit card payment) can be arranged.

2 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18701

reception@lampmanlaw.com  |   570-371-3737

Lampman Law practices criminal defense and civil rights in the Counties of: Bradford, Carbon, Clinton, Columbia, Lackawanna, Lehigh, Luzerne, Lycoming, Mifflin, Monroe, Montour, Northampton, Northumberland, Pike, Schuylkill, Snyder, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Union, Wayne, Wyoming. Lampman Law Office is located in Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania.

Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. The information on this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. Do not rely on it for accuracy or direction. You should consult an attorney for advice concerning your individual situation because every case is different. Further, contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Do not send confidential information to us until an attorney-client relationship has been established.

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