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Understanding when theft becomes a felony

On Behalf of | Jul 11, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Theft is a serious matter, especially in Pennsylvania. If you steal someone else’s property, it can lead to hefty penalties. This offense, however, ranges in severity from a simple summary offense to a serious felony.

The circumstances surrounding the theft, such as the value of the stolen property, the nature of the act and the victim’s status, all contribute to how the law classifies the crime.

The value of stolen property

The value of the stolen property is one of the key determinants in classifying the theft charge. In Pennsylvania, theft becomes a felony when the value of the stolen goods exceeds $2,000. If you steal property worth less than this amount, it is a misdemeanor. However, any amount over the $2,000 mark escalates the charge to a third-degree felony. Stealing items valued between $2,000 and $500,000 constitutes a second-degree felony. If the stolen property’s value exceeds $500,000, you face a first-degree felony charge.

Additional factors affecting the classification

The value is not the only consideration, though. Certain circumstances can automatically upgrade a theft charge to a felony. For instance, if you receive stolen property and intend to sell it, it is a third-degree felony, regardless of the property’s worth.

Additionally, the victim’s status plays a significant role. Theft from an elderly person or a person with disabilities, irrespective of the value of the stolen goods, is also a third-degree felony. Furthermore, theft committed during a natural disaster or theft of a firearm, no matter the value, can lead to a second or first-degree felony charge.

The severity of theft charges in Pennsylvania depends heavily on the circumstances surrounding the act, so careful consideration of the surrounding factors can help determine what consequences may follow.