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xavierjd, Attorney
Category: Legal
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Experience:  20+ yrs in criminal, landlord/tenant, family, & small claims
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I was caught today for supposed retail theft. I was comparing

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I was caught today for supposed retail theft. I was comparing two different products and placed one item in the wrong box and then bought it without realizing what had happened. I have a summary retail theft from when I was 17 (I am now 45) but I do have another felony charge (not involving theft) from over 12 yeas ago. What would the penality most likely be or how can I ight the charge.
Thanks for using It will be my pleasure to assist you today.

How much was the value of the merchandise that you allegedly "stole?"

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

around $12.00


Thanks for the information. I want to look up a couple of things for you. I will be back with an answer for you asap.

Thanks for your patience.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I am a nurse and property manager and do not want this on my record and more importanly cannot take a chance on any jail time. I had no intention of walking out with something I didn't pay for since I paid for all the other items I had. There was a box of medication containing three cards of pills and another box by the same company containing five cards of pills. As a nurse I was looking at the cards comparing the benefits of both and accidently placed two of the cards in the wrong box. I actually ended up paying for the ones I didn't plan on buying. I explained this to the store person but they just said it was on tape that I walked out with something that was not properly paid for. I just need to know how to get this taken care of without a record and jail due to my nursing job.


I am SO sorry that you find yourself in such a horrible situation. I can certainly understand your concern because of your job as a nurse.

In Pennsylvania shoplifting is called "Retail Theft." There is a statute in the Pennsylvania Crimes Code entitled "Retail Theft" which defines what conduct is illegal in retail stores. The Retail Theft statute can be found at 18 Pa.C.S. Sec. 3929.

The Pennsylvania Retail Theft law makes the following conduct illegal:

  1. taking merchandise out of a retail store without paying for it;
  2. altering a price tag in a store with the intention of paying a lower price for the item;
  3. taking an item in a store out of its packaging and putting it in another container with the intent of stealing that item;
  4. under-ringing merchandise (as a cashier)
  5. destroying, tampering or removing a security tag from an item with the intent of stealing the item.

A person is guilty of retail theft if s/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.


-A person is guilty of theft if s/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.


It is important to note that in Pennsylvania there is a presumption that you are stealing merchandise from a retail store if you conceal the item(s).

Because you had a prior offense, you will most likely be charged with a Misdemeanor 2nd Degree. The MAXIMUM penalty, if you were convicted, is a fine of not less than $500, no more than $5,000 or imprisonment not exceeding 2 years, or both.

The Pennsylvania Sentencing guidelines base your punishment on your prior record score (prior criminal record) and the offense gravity score of the crime (how serious your crime was).

It is important to know that an element of the crime of retail theft is that you had to have the INTENTION to permanently deprive the store of the goods and/or creates or reinforces a false impression, including false impressions as to law, value, intention or other state of mind.

If you had NO knowledge that you committed a crime and you had NO intent to deprive the store of the goods or NO intention to create or reinforce a false impression, including false impressions as to law, value, intention or other state of mind, then you are NOT guilty of the crime.

The prosecutor has the burden of proving that you committed EACH AND EVERY ELEMENT of the crime BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT. That is a VERY HIGH burden.

If you had no intention to steal the merchandise, then you would be NOT guilty of retail theft.

HOWEVER, because you have a nursing job, and because your license may be affected if you were to be convicted, IT IS VERY IMPORTANT that you speak to an attorney who specializes in criminal law. Sometimes, an initial consultation is free or at a minimal charge. You can discuss the specific facts of your case, evaluate you options and decide how to proceed.

An attorney may look at the "evidence" that the prosecutor believes that s/he has against you and may be able to file a Motion to Dismiss the charges if the prosecutor does not have the evidence to proceed. Even if the charges are not dismissed, an attorney can try to get the prosecutor to reduce the charge or agree to a sentence recommendation of "no jail."

While I cannot tell you with certainty what any sentence may be if you were to be convicted, I can tell you that because it has been SEVERAL years since your last conviction, it is unlikely that you would serve any jail time. However, an attorney can go over your history and the factors that go into any sentencing guidelines. You may be put on a term of probation and have to pay fines/costs. An attorney may assist you in determining whether your nursing license is in danger if you are convicted.

I hope you find this information useful.

My goal is to provide you with excellent service – if you feel you have gotten anything less, please reply back. I am happy to address follow-up questions. If you are satisfied with my answer, please rate it as "excellent" or in another positive manner. That is the only way that I can get credit for answering the question.

Thank you for your business!


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Thank you so much for the "excellent service" rating! It is greatly appreciated and I am glad that you found the information useful.

If you have future questions, you can specifically request me by name as the expert.

Thanks again,


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