How does Pennsylvania define theft?

If you are a Pennsylvania resident who has been arrested and charged with theft, you may be confused about exactly what is that you are accused of having done. That is not surprising given that the Pennsylvania Legislature has defined no less than 17 types of theft that can occur in this state.

All thefts are property crimes and Pennsylvania defines property as “anything of value,” including such things as the following:

  • Personal items
  • Real estate
  • Animals
  • Food and/or drinks
  • Rights and/or claims
  • Electric and other types of power

If you are charged with theft, it means that you are accused of taking someone else’s property. The type of theft you are charged with depends on what you allegedly took, how you allegedly took it, and how much it is worth.

Degrees of theft

Theft can range all the way from a third degree misdemeanor, the lowest level of theft in terms of the penalties if you are convicted, to a first degree felony. For instance, a third degree misdemeanor theft means the property you are alleged to have taken was worth less than $50 and you did not take it from someone by threat. A first degree felony theft, on the other hand, means that the property you are alleged to have taken was worth $500,000 or more or that it was a firearm and you are alleged to be a firearms dealer.

The two most common types of theft are theft by deception and theft by unlawful taking or disposition. Theft by deception means that you are accused of having intentionally given or reinforced someone’s false impression that the property was yours to take. Unlawful taking or disposition means that you are accused of taking control of someone’s movable property with the intention of depriving him or her of it. If the property you are accused of taking is unmovable, it means that you are accused of illegally transferring it to yourself or that you otherwise took control of it for your own benefit or the benefit of someone else who was not its legal owner.

This information is only intended to educate. It should not be interpreted as legal advice.