Retail Theft

Shoplifting defense lawyer State College

Retail theft, often called shoplifting, carries collateral consequences, which are generally way out of proportion to the value of the stolen items in question. First of all, even if retail theft is charged as a summary offense, the defendant will be fingerprinted and photographed. This leads to a criminal record in data bases maintained by both the Pennsylvania State Police and FBI.

Criminal conviction and your future

Although any criminal conviction makes it more difficult to obtain a job, potential employers view theft offenses with especial distain. This is because employee theft is a major problem. Employers surmise that the best way to avoid employee theft is by not hiring those most likely to steal, and most people consider past conduct to be the best indicator of a person's future conduct.

Retail theft is a "crimin falsi" offense, meaning that it is a crime of dishonesty. If a person with a conviction for a crimin falsi offense testifies in court, his or her credibility can be impeached. This means that a judge will instruct the jury that it should consider a witness' prior theft conviction when gauging the witness' credibility.

Minors can receive and adult conviction for retail theft

Unlike with most criminal offenses, a minor can receive an adult conviction for retail theft. This is because a summary offense is not an offense, which is dealt with in juvenile court; juvenile summary offenses are handled in magisterial district courts, like any adult summary offense case. The juvenile charged with retail theft will be fingerprinted and photographed, just like an adult. Thus, retail theft is the only offense for which a juvenile can receive an adult criminal record, without a Common Pleas Court Judge certifying the juvenile's case for prosecution in the adult system.

Retail theft is an example of a "stacking offense"

Retail theft is a classic example of a "stacking offense." This means that every time a defendant receives a new conviction, the penalties increase. A first offense retail theft is graded as a summary offense, if the stolen merchandise is valued at less than $150. A second offense is graded as a second degree misdemeanor or higher, while a third offense is always graded as a felony, even if the defendant merely stole a pack of gum.

Unlike with DUI, which has a 10 year "look-back" period for prior convictions, there is no "look-back" period for prior retail theft convictions. If you committed your first retail theft at age 15, and your second one at age 40, the second offense is going to be graded as at least a second degree misdemeanor. A third retail theft offense is always charged as a felony, but that is not the only reason why there is a substantial risk of incarceration if convicted of a third retail theft. The other obvious reason is that judges and prosecutors are less inclined to give breaks to defendants who continue to commit the exact same offense. A skilled defense attorney may, however, be able to present enough mitigating factors to keep his client out of jail in a felony retail theft case.

Avoid a damaging conviction

Given the severe consequences for even a first offense retail theft, it is of vital importance to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Some times, an attorney can achieve a result, which allows you to avoid a damaging conviction, while in other cases, the goal will be to avoid incarceration.

Call 814-308-0870 for a Free Consultation With an Experienced Attorney

Each client of the McClenahen Law Firm receives prompt service, close attention and the benefit of years of experience representing people charged with crimes. If you or a loved one has been charged with retail theft or shoplifting, please contact us today at 814-308-0870.