I have spent many years as a Pennsylvania Retail Theft Lawyer and I have seen the retail theft laws grow and change over the years. The retail theft law itself is titled 18 P.C.S.A. 3929. A curious portion of this law provides that a person may be found guilty of retail theft even if the person never walks out of the store and past the register with merchandise. Examine subsection (c) of the law that says that any person attempting to conceal merchandise on store property can be assumed to be trying to steal it.
Well, here’s the problem with that: I represented a guy last year in King of Prussia for allegedly trying to steal razor blades. The version goes like this: Store detective looks at my client as he puts the razor blades inside his jacket pocket. My client sees him looking at him and removes the blades and puts them back on the shelf. He then pays for stuff and goes to leave the store and is stopped by security for attempting to conceal the razor blades and is arrested for retail theft. Huh?
Well, we went to court and the Commonwealth cited this subsection (c) and argued to the judge that he was guilty of retail theft. The judge, taking what I thought was a common sense approach, found my client not guilty and reasoned that since he never tried to make off with the stuff, that he wasn’t going to find him guilty of retail theft. Of course, having a King of Prussia retail theft lawyer may have helped a bit, but the set of facts as just recited should illustrate how there exists a fine line between stealing, attempting to steal, and thinking about stealing and then just “changing your mind”, the latter of which is not a crime….last time I checked.