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Pennsylvania Shoplifting Laws

Award-winning actresses, popular athletes, and anxious adolescents are among those who have engaged in the "five-finger discount" in order to acquire the items that they crave. The act of shoplifting is an offense that people engage in for various reasons. Regardless of the motive, the shoplifter can face negative consequences due to their actions, including jail time, fines, and damage to their reputation.

Shoplifting typically involves a theft or a larceny from a retailer. Pennsylvania's shoplifting laws are categorized under the retail theft law, separate from the other theft laws in the state. When a person carries away, or transfers, any merchandise by a store or other retail entity with the intent of depriving the merchant of the use and benefit of the property, he or she has committed a retail theft.

The penalties for retail theft increase as the cash value of the merchandise increases; the penalties also depend on the criminal history of the actor and will increase due to prior offenses.

Pennsylvania Shoplifting Laws at a Glance

The chart below provides a summary of laws related to Pennsylvania's shoplifting laws, including links to important code sections.

Statute and Definition

Title 18, Section 3929 (Retail Theft)

A person is guilty of retail theft when he or she (with the intent to deprive the merchant of the possession and the benefit of the merchandise) does any of the following:

  • Takes possession of or carries away any merchandise from a retail establishment without paying the full retail value
  • Changes or removes price tags or labels
  • Transfers merchandise into new containers to avoid paying the full retail value
  • Manipulates a cash register to "under ring" an item
  • Tampers with security devices

Penalties and Sentencing

  • Summary Offense: If it's a first offense and the theft involves retail merchandise valued at less than $150. Penalty: sentence of up to 90 days in jail with fines of up to $300.
  • Second Degree Misdemeanor: If it's a theft of merchandise valued at less than $150 with one prior offense. Penalty: sentence of up to 2 years in jail with fines of up to $5,000.
  • First Degree Misdemeanor: If it's a theft of merchandise valued at $150 or more with no more than one prior offense. Penalty: sentence of up to 5 years in jail with fines of up to $10,000.
  • Third Degree Felony: If it's a theft with a third or subsequent offense, regardless of the monetary value of the merchandise or a theft of merchandise valued at more than $1,000 or theft of a firearm. Penalty: sentence of up to 7 years in jail with fines of up to $15,000.

Possible Defenses

  • Mistake of fact

Related Offenses

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Pennsylvania Shoplifting Laws: Related Resources

Talk to a Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney

Although shoplifting is usually a minor offense, it could result in fines, jail time, and damage to your reputation and permanent record. If you've been charged with violating Pennsylvania's shoplifting laws, then consider talking to a criminal defense attorney to learn more about your rights. Get started by reaching out to a Pennsylvania attorney near you today.

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