Pennsylvania law establishes a number of theft offenses that range in severity from second-degree felonies to third-degree misdemeanors. Successfully defending against theft charges in Pennsylvania criminal court requires a clear understanding of your specific charge (or charges) and the factual allegations against you. At McKinney Law, our experienced Pittsburgh criminal defense attorneys work to make sure that you have an attorney by your side that understands the law and can craft a viable legal defense
Three Common Theft Charges in Pennsylvania
Most theft cases in the Pittsburgh area involve three types of charges: (i) theft by unlawful taking or disposition, (ii) receiving stolen property, and (iii) unauthorized use of automobiles and other vehicles.
1. Theft by Unlawful Taking or Disposition
The crime of theft by unlawful taking or disposition is what most people think of when they hear the word, “theft.” Under Pennsylvania Law, a person is guilty of theft by unlawful taking or disposition if he or she:
- “[U]nlawfully takes, or exercises unlawful control over, movable property of another with intent to deprive him thereof;” or,
- “Unlawfully transfers, or exercises unlawful control over, immovable property of another or any interest therein with intent to benefit himself or another not entitled thereto.”
Stealing jewelry from someone’s home, stealing electronics or firearms from another person, and obtaining title to someone else’s real estate are all examples of theft by unlawful taking or disposition under Pennsylvania law. Theft involving $2,000 or more in cash or property is a third-degree felony, and theft of firearms is a second-degree felony offense. Thefts involving lesser amounts are misdemeanors under most circumstances.
2. Receiving Stolen Property
Receiving stolen property is considered a form of theft under Pennsylvania law. Receiving, retaining, and disposing of stolen property can all lead to misdemeanor or felony charges. In these cases, a key element of the prosecution’s case proof of your mental state: You are not guilty unless you intentionally received, retained or disputes of property knowing that it was stolen. If you can raise doubt as to whether you intended to receive the property or knew it was stolen, this can be enough to protect you from a conviction.
3. Unauthorized Use of Automobiles and Other Vehicles
If you drove someone else’s car without their consent, you can be charged with the crime of unauthorized use of automobiles and other vehicles. This is a second-degree felony under Pennsylvania law, which means that it carries a potential sentence of two years of incarceration and a $5,000 fine. In addition to cars, trucks and SUVs, the “unauthorized use of automobiles and other vehicles” statute also applies to:
- Other motor-propelled vehicles (such as four-wheelers and dirt bikes)
In addition to various other potential defenses, it is a defense to unauthorized use of a vehicle if you “reasonably believed” that the owner would have consented to your use. There are a number of ways to establish this defense, and attorney Randall McKinney can determine if this is a viable defense strategy in your case.
Contact Us for a Free Initial Consultation
If you have been arrested for theft, receiving stolen property or unauthorized use of a vehicle in the Pittsburgh area, you need aggressive and knowledgeable representation. We encourage you to contact us promptly for a free initial consultation. To speak with defense attorney Randall McKinney about your case in confidence, call (412) 520-3301 or inquire online now.