Retail Theft & Shoplifting Defense Attorney (PA)

Theft in PA is basically defined as the taking of the property of another without permission and with the intent to deprive the rightful owner of that property. When the owner of the property is a retail establishment (a store), the crime is called retail theft (also known as shoplifting).

Retail thefts — and all theft offenses — are taken seriously in Montgomery County, PA and are usually prosecuted aggressively. Obviously, any theft conviction looks terrible on a person’s criminal history (RAP Sheet), so it is important to make sure you get the best possible result if you are charged with retail theft.

Accused of Retail Theft or Shoplifting in PA?

If you have been accused of retail theft, shoplifting or theft in Montgomery or Bucks County, contact me, Southeastern Pennsylvania theft crimes defense attorney Erik Petersen.

As a prosecutor in the Major Crimes Unit of the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office, I prosecuted countless shoplifting crimes and other theft offenses. As a criminal defense attorney since 1999, I have represented many people charged with retail theft and related theft offenses.

At the Montgomery County, PA Law Office of Erik Petersen, I certainly have a great deal of experience involving retail theft cases and am qualified to represent anyone charged with a theft-related offense.

Types of Theft Offenses

Retail theft is the most commonly charged theft offense in PA. This is particularly true in Montgomery County where there are major malls such as the King of Prussia Mall, the Montgomery Mall and the Plymouth Meeting Mall.

However there are other types of theft offenses for which people are commonly charged.  These offenses include:

  • Theft of Movable Property
  • Theft by Deception
  • Theft of Mislaid Property
  • Theft by Extortion
  • Theft of Services
  • Theft by Failure to Make Required Disposition of Funds

If you are charged with retail theft or any theft offense in Montgomery County PA, you should call the Law Office of Erik Petersen to discuss your case.

retail theft & shoplifting criminal defense attorney

Why People Commit Retail Theft (Shoplifting)

It is well known that many people who commit retail theft do not commit any other crimes and are otherwise law-abiding citizens. There have been many studies that have looked at why. There are many theories such as:

  • Relief Mechanism for Depression, Anxiety or similar disorder. Some studies have found that up to one-third of the people who commit retail theft or shoplift were suffering from a depression or anxiety-related disorder or episode.
  • Response to a Loss. Experts have theorized that some offenders are basically “acting out” after a loss such as divorce, job loss or an unexpected large expense. Sometimes this response is a carefully calculated strategy (such as not paying for an item simply because the person does not have the money), but sometimes it is simply a sub-conscious response to being in a “low” or depressive state.
  • A Psychological High. Studies have shown that for some people, the “high” associated with “beating the system” or out-thinking loss prevention is the actual psychological reward as opposed to the item itself. For some people, this “high” temporarily relieves the unhappiness, frustration or boredom they are experiencing in their life. Many such people become consumed in this “game” to the point that they truly  forget that their activities are criminal and subject them to serious penalties.
  • A Momentary Lapse in Judgment. For many people, a retail theft is truly a momentary lapse in judgment for which a person is immediately remorseful and even deeply ashamed.

Interestingly, one study revealed that when adults who shoplifted are asked why they did it, the most common answer is “I don’t know”.

Clearly, there are some people who steal as a profession or for no reason whatsoever and lack any remorse regarding their behavior. Most people charged with retail theft, however, truly regret their poor choices and want to make amends for their mistake. These are the type of people for whom an experienced criminal defense attorney can obtain a positive result. And, for first-time offenders, these are people who may be admitted into the ARD Program. (read more on ARD below.)

Juveniles Charged with Retail Theft

More and more, in Montgomery County, PA and surrounding counties, we are seeing juveniles charged with Retail Theft. Some of the reasons that juveniles commit Retail Theft are similar to adults, but experts do see some differences.

Juveniles are more likely to commit Retail Theft for reasons such as peer pressure, boredom and a desire to “fit in” at school. One study showed that when juvenils who committed Retail Theft are asked why they did it, the most common response is that they wanted the nice things that their friends already have.

Regardless of the reason for the behavior, juveniles charged with Retail Theft need a positive result as much as adults. A Retail Theft conviction can make it difficult to attend colleges, obtain employment or even volunteer for charities. It is important for juveniles to be well represented to ensure that any disposition of the case can one day be expunged so the juvenile can have a clean criminal record.

If you or a loved one are accused of Retail Theft / Shoplifting, Theft, or Fraud in Montgomery County, PA, the Law Office of Erik Petersen is prepared to offer outstanding representation to ensure the best possible result.

Other Theft-Related Offenses

Besides Retail Theft, there are numerous theft-related offenses charged in Pennsylvania. At the Law Office of Erik Petersen, I can help people charged with any of the following crimes:

  • Burglary
  • Fraud
  • Criminal Trespassing
  • Auto Theft
  • Armed Robbery
  • Carjacking
  • Mortgage Fraud
  • Insurance Fraud
  • White Collar Crimes
  • Access Device Fraud
  • Money Laundering
  • Retail Theft and Shoplifting
  • Bad Checks
  • Identity Theft
  • Mail Fraud

Retail Theft Laws

a) Offense defined.–A person is guilty of a retail theft if he:

(1) takes possession of, carries away, transfers or causes to be carried away or transferred, any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale by any store or other retail mercantile establishment with the intention of depriving the merchant of the possession, use or benefit of such merchandise without paying the full retail value thereof;

(2) alters, transfers or removes any label, price tag marking, indicia of value or any other markings which aid in determining value affixed to any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale in a store or other retail mercantile establishment and attempts to purchase such merchandise personally or in consort with another at less than the full retail value with the intention of depriving the merchant of the full retail value of such merchandise;

(3) transfers any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale by any store or other retail mercantile establishment from the container in or on which the same shall be displayed to any other container with intent to deprive the merchant of all or some part of the full retail value thereof; or

(4) under-rings with the intention of depriving the merchant of the full retail value of the merchandise.

(5) destroys, removes, renders inoperative or deactivates any inventory control tag, security strip or any other mechanism designed or employed to prevent an offense under this section with the intention of depriving the merchant of the possession, use or benefit of such merchandise without paying the full retail value thereof.

The ARD Program for Retail Theft

The Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition Program (ARD Program), is a viable option for people who are charged with a first-offense retail theft or shoplifting. The ARD Program is a diversionary program, created by the PA state legislature, which allows people to complete a “program” as opposed to going to trial and risking a criminal conviction and prison.

The ARD Program emphasizes counseling, treatment and community service as opposed to punitive measures such as jail time and a criminal conviction. When a person completes the ARD Program, the charges are dismissed and can then be expunged from your criminal record. Basically, the ARD Program gives people a second chance at a clean criminal record.

ARD is available for people who are charged with committing a non-violent offense. Most (but not all) ARD cases involve retail theft and Driving Under the Influence (DUI) charges. It is important to talk to a Montgomery County Retail Theft ARD attorney to discuss whether you may be eligible for admission into the ARD Program.

Is ARD Right for Me?

The ARD Program is a positive result for many people charged with shoplifting or any other non-violent crime such as DUI, because it results in no jail time and no conviction. This means that after the case is over, the entire matter  can be expunged from your record/

However while the ARD Program — or even a plea bargain — is sometimes the best option, it is important to choose an criminal defense attorney who is not hesitant to take a matter to trial when it is appropriate to do so. Prosecutors can sense when an attorney is afraid of trial and will be less-inclined to offer the best possible deal. As both a prosecutor and defense counsel, I have a great deal of experience in trying shoplifting and other criminal cases.

For anyone charged with retail theft or any theft offense, it is important to speak with an experienced retail theft defense attorney to fully understand your rights and options.