Shoplifting, legally termed “retail theft” in the state of Pennsylvania, involves taking merchandise from a retail establishment without paying. Upon conviction, you can expect to face a wide range of penalties that will likely affect your life for years to come. For this reason, you should never face a shoplifting charge on your own. Instead, if you’re accused of shoplifting, you should continue reading and contact a seasoned Montgomery County theft crime lawyer from Mudrick & Zucker, P.C. as soon as you can. Here are some of the questions you may have:

Is Shoplifting a Serious Crime in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania law treats shoplifting offenses with varying degrees of severity. The value of the stolen merchandise largely determines the charge’s gravity. For stolen property valued under $50, first-time offenders may face up to 90 days of incarceration and a potential $5,000 fine. However, stolen higher-valued items result in more severe charges. For example, if you’re accused of stealing merchandise worth more than $2,000, you can expect to face up to seven years of jail time and a potential $15,000 fine.  A general rule of thumb is the greater the dollar value of the items you’re accused of stealing, the more severe the penalties you’ll face.

How Does a Shoplifting Conviction Affect My Future?

Aside from facing criminal penalties, such as fines, jail time, and more, those convicted of shoplifting in Pennsylvania will also develop criminal records. Unfortunately, a criminal record can have profound and long-lasting effects on various aspects of one’s life. One of the most immediate impacts is on employment opportunities. Many employers conduct background checks, and a criminal record can make it challenging to secure a job, especially in fields that require a high level of trust and integrity. This situation can lead to significant financial stress and limit career advancement opportunities.

Additionally, a shoplifting conviction might hinder educational opportunities. Students might find themselves ineligible for certain scholarships or face difficulties in admissions to colleges and universities. This can have a cascading effect on one’s future career and earnings potential. In some cases, current students may face disciplinary actions from their educational institutions, including suspension or expulsion.

The conviction can also affect eligibility for professional licenses. Fields such as law, medicine, education, and finance often require a clean criminal record for licensing. This means that a shoplifting conviction could close doors to entire career paths, drastically altering one’s professional trajectory.

Beyond these tangible effects, a shoplifting conviction can lead to unexpected social stigma and personal hardships. The social consequences of a criminal record can be far-reaching, affecting personal relationships, community standing, and overall quality of life.

What Legal Defenses Can Be Used in Shoplifting Cases?

Defending against a shoplifting charge requires a nuanced legal strategy. Mistaken identity or lack of intent are common defense approaches. Sometimes, proving that the accused had no intention to steal can be a viable defense. Asserting that the accused was wrongfully accused due to misunderstanding or error is another angle. Skilled attorneys can also explore nuances in surveillance footage or witness testimonies to build a defense.

If you are currently facing shoplifting charges in Pennsylvania, please don’t hesitate to contact the seasoned Montgomery County shoplifting lawyers here at Mudrick & Zucker, P.C. for guidance today.