Value of property determines a misdemeanor or felony theft charge

| Sep 17, 2020 | Criminal Defense

The Keystone State’s laws classify theft offenses based on the value of property allegedly taken. A misdemeanor theft offense generally requires proof an individual took property worth less than $2,000.

Property valued at more than $2,000, however, may result in an individual facing a felony charge, according to the Pennsylvania General Assembly. A felony charge may also apply if the stolen property is a motor-propelled vehicle such as a car or motorcycle.

Movable versus immovable property

Movable property includes goods and merchandise typically found in a retail location. Because it is not difficult to move property out of a store, a prosecutor may prove intent based on evidence.

Immovable property generally involves transfer of ownership, such as money moving between two bank accounts or a real estate transfer. An allegedly unlawful high-value transfer may result in a felony charge.

Intent to take property

A prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant intended to deprive its owner of a property’s use and value. Without evidence that an individual took property to keep permanently, a jury may find it difficult to convict.

A strong claim may counter a prosecutor’s allegation of intent. Defendants may, for example, demonstrate how they mistakenly believed the properties in question belonged to them or represented lost items.

Penalties for theft offense convictions

Penalties for a misdemeanor theft offense may include a jail sentence of less than five years. As reported by NorthcentralPA.com, a prosecutor convicted a 55-year-old Pennsylvania resident over an alleged $3 theft. He received a sentence of between 80 and 161 days in jail.

Felony theft convictions, however, may result in up to 20 years of incarceration. A judge may also order a fine and community service.