In The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a first offense for retail theft when the value of the merchandise taken is over $150.00 is graded as a misdemeanor. If the value of the stuff is under $150.00 its a summary offense (a ticket). Clear enough, right? Not so fast. It is the term “value of merchandise” that many lawyers, judges, defendants, and police throughout shopping havens like King of Prussia, Limerick, Bala Cynwyd, and Neshaminy often find problematic.
Here’s the scenario. A young girl is arrested for stealing from Nordstroms in the King of Prussia Mall. She takes three shirts and a pair of shoes. The store sets the value of the things taken at $210.00 dollars. This is the amount they give to the police when they make out their report. Well, what the store has done has given the police the value of the retail price of what the store was asking for the merchandise. The $210.00 loss puts the grading of the theft as a misdemeanor and this is what the girl is facing. A misdemeanor and a criminal record. Well…this is wrong.
The actual value in the above scenario is what the store paid for the merchandise. Lets says that the girl’s lawyer was able to show that Nordstroms paid just $144.00 at wholesale for the stuff that was taken. Now we have a different story. That now puts the “value” at under $150.00 and the grading now becomes a summary offense which exposes the girl to just a payment of a fine in district court. In this case, it was important for the girl to have a Pennsylvania retail theft attorney to exploit this little known and under used law for his client’s benefit.