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Pennsylvania Theft / Larceny Law

Overview of Pennsylvania Theft/Larceny Laws

It is a crime in Pennsylvania to commit theft of another person's property. Note that Pennsylvania uses the term theft instead of larceny to describe any taking of another's property. To prove that the defendant has committed theft, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant unlawfully took, transferred or exercised control over another person's property with the intent to deprive the owner of it. A person may also be found guilty of theft if they accept or receive stolen property that they know has been stolen and they do not have the intent to return it to its rightful owner.

More information about Pennsylvania's theft and larceny laws can be found in the following table.

Statute Pennsylvania Statutes Title 18 § 3921
Statutory Definition of Theft

A person is guilty of theft if he intentionally obtains or withholds property of another by deception. A person deceives if he intentionally:


  1. creates or reinforces a false impression, including false impressions as to law, value, intention or other state of mind;  but deception as to a person's intention to perform a promise shall not be inferred from the fact alone that he did not subsequently perform the promise;
  2. prevents another from acquiring information which would affect his judgment of a transaction;  or
  3. fails to correct a false impression which the deceiver previously created or reinforced, or which the deceiver knows to be influencing another to whom he stands in a fiduciary or confidential relationship.


Types of Property


(a) Movable property. A person is guilty of theft if he unlawfully takes, or exercises unlawful control over, movable property of another with intent to deprive him thereof.

(b) Immovable property. A person is guilty of theft if he unlawfully transfers, or exercises unlawful control over, immovable property of another or any interest therein with intent to benefit himself or another not entitled thereto.

Pennsylvania defines various takings of property as theft. This includes:

  • theft by deception (where the defendant intentionally withholds property of another by deceiving them);
  • theft by extortion (where the defendant obtains or withholds property by threatening to harm the victim or commit another criminal offense);
  • theft of services;
  • theft of lost property (where the defendant fails to try to return the lost property to its rightful owner)

Defenses to Theft/Larceny Charges

  • Lack of intent to deprive the rightful owner of the property
  • Intended to search for the rightful owner of the property and return it to them
  • Age
  • Duress
  • Property was not in fact stolen (i.e. the rightful owner may have lost it)
  • Entrapment
  • Consent

Penalties and Sentences

The penalty for theft in Pennsylvania varies depending on the amount or value of the property stolen. If the value is less than $50, the offense will be a summary offense. This is a less serious charge than a felony or misdemeanor. It is not actually a criminal conviction. However, it will show up on criminal record history checks and for that reason, should be taken very seriously. A summary offense may receive a sentence of up to ninety days in jail and/or a fine of anywhere between $25 and $1,500 depending on the degree or severity of the summary offense.

If the amount stolen is over $2,000, or the property stolen is a vehicle, vessel or airplane of any kind the charge is a second degree felony. If the stolen property is a firearm, it is a first degree felony. If the amount involved was $50 to less than $200, the charge is a third degree misdemeanor. Overall, there is no hard lined rule since the charge will depend on the circumstances of each case and the type of property stolen and its overall value. Penalties can range between 90 days in jail for the smaller offenses up to seven years in prison for major theft.

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- please contact an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Pennsylvania Theft/Larceny Laws: Related Resources

Charged With Theft in Pennsylvania? Get Expert Legal Help Today 

Theft can be as simple as shoplifting and as complex as a diamond heist. In either scenario, the prosecution must prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that the defendant took the property knowing he or she had no rightful claim to that property. A skilled attorney will be able to effectively challenge the prosecution's claims. Learn more about your theft case by contacting a Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney.

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