Montgomery County Petty Theft Lawyer
The term petty theft can be misleading. While the value of the items that a person is accused of stealing is relatively small, the consequences can be big and long-lasting, resulting in a criminal record that can make it harder to get into college, secure housing, or find employment.
Each year, thousands of people are accused of petty theft in Montgomery County. If you have been charged with this crime, a compassionate criminal defense lawyer and their legal team can provide guidance in order to help you understand your legal options, brainstorm with you about defense strategies, and may even provide representation as your case makes its way through the criminal process.
How Is Petty Theft Defined in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, when someone is charged with taking the property of another with the intent to permanently deprive that individual or entity of the property, it is considered theft. Petty theft—also commonly referred to as petty larceny—involves taking something with a value of less than $50. Provided the item of value is not taken through force or the violation of the accused’s fiduciary duty, the crime is considered a Summary Offense. Many petty thefts also involve retail theft, more commonly referred to as shoplifting.
The elements that a prosecutor needs to prove in order to obtain a conviction on a charge of petty theft include the wrongful taking of an item that belongs to someone else through the physical movement or concealment of the property without consent and with the intent to permanently deprive. Because one of the required elements of this charge is permanently depriving the owner of its use, simply borrowing something with the intent to return it will generally not be considered petty theft.
What Are the Potential Consequences of a Petty Theft Conviction in Montgomery?
When a person is convicted of petty theft in Pennsylvania, they face potential consequences, including a fine of up to $1,500 and up to 90 days in prison. The defendant can also be required to perform community service and also serve a time of probation. The consequences of the crime are usually more severe if the defendant has a previous history of other theft convictions. For example, if someone is convicted for a third time of shoplifting—even if the items they stole were valued at less than $50—the crime can be charged as a 3rd-degree felony, which carries a penalty of up to seven years in prison along with a fine of up to $15,000.
If an individual who is charged with a theft of less than $5,000 and is a first offender, they are often eligible to participate in Pennsylvania’s Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program. This program involves supervisory probation and other requirements that the defendant will have to meet within a certain period. If they complete these requirements, they can potentially have the conviction erased from their record. This option is commonly reserved for young offenders.
How a Petty Theft Lawyer Help With Your Case
A knowledgeable petty theft lawyer can examine the details of your case and help you develop a strategy for defending yourself. This strategy depends on your case’s unique facts, but some of the legal options that can be available in petty theft cases include:
Filing for Dismissal
A common approach involves filing a motion to dismiss the case due to issues with the prosecution’s claim, such as evidence that the accused was not involved in the crime or that the item was taken due to a misunderstanding in which the accused legitimately believed the stolen item was theirs. In some cases, a motion to dismiss can also be filed if there were procedural errors made in the investigation of the defendant by the police or prosecution.
Fight in Court
If the case cannot be dismissed, your petty theft lawyer will fight the case in court, supplying evidence that disproves the prosecution’s claim. Surveillance videos are often an important type of evidence in a petty theft case, as they can show that the individual accused of the crime never left the location where the crime reportedly occurred, such as a person accused of shoplifting who is detained before actually leaving the store with the allegedly stolen item. Many theft charges are defended in this manner, as the prosecution is required to show that there was an intent to permanently deprive the owner of the item in order to secure a conviction.
If there is substantial evidence against you, your petty theft lawyer will consider arranging a plea deal in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty in exchange for reduced consequences or accepts entry into the ARD program if they are a first-time offender.
You can appeal your conviction of petty theft by providing new evidence to show that you did not commit the crime.
When it comes to defending yourself against criminal charges or appealing a criminal conviction, the experience and understanding of the law that is offered by a petty theft attorney can help mitigate the potential consequences of a conviction through a strong defense strategy and protect your civil rights during the investigation and court process. They can represent you in court and can also work with the prosecution in some cases to secure a plea deal.
Charged With Petty Theft in Montgomery County, PA? Call RGSG
Many people in Pennsylvania commit petty theft because they are unaware of the severity of the consequences, or they feel that stealing is the only way to get something they need. Others are accused of petty theft due to a misunderstanding. Others are accused when they have an alibi that proves they did not commit the crime. Whatever the circumstances behind the charge, if you have been accused of petty theft, the legal team at Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford, P.C. can help you understand the penalties you face and the options you have for defending yourself against the charge.
Contrary to popular belief, misdemeanor convictions are not simply a matter of paying the fine, and the crime is erased. Instead, this misdemeanor conviction can threaten your finances, freedom, reputation, and even the education, housing, and employment options that are available to you. To schedule a consultation with a talented Montgomery petty theft lawyer, contact us online or call (215) 822-7575.