As we all know, if someone is caught committing a crime in the state of Pennsylvania, or any other state, they get arrested. Part of the process of getting arrested is having the police take your picture and and take an impression of your fingerprints. It is done for every crime that is graded as a felony or misdemeanor because they are the two highest graded crimes and considered most serious. DUI, rape, murder, etc = fingerprints. Once the police have your picture and fingerprints, you have an official arrest record. If you are convicted, that arrest record becomes a full fledged criminal record. But there is another type of crime, a yellow ticket in fact, that also requires your fingerprints to be taken: Retail Theft.
As a Pa. retail theft lawyer, I have counseled many clients, a lot of them young persons, that the crime of Retail Theft is an “escalating penalties” crime and thus requires the authorities to keep track of how many retail theft convictions a person has. A first offense of Retail Theft, where the amount taken is under $150.00, is graded as a summary offense. Its a ticket. A second offense must always be graded as at least a misdemeanor, and a third offense is always a felony. That’s why the authorities have to keep track of priors convictions – so they know which grading of retail theft to charge you with for the newest one – and they do this by counting your prior arrests. And your fingerprints.
A first offense retail theft charge, given as a yellow ticket is the only summary offense that exists that requires the defendant give his or her fingerprints. It stinks. But if that unfortunate person who is caught shoplifting at the outlets or the King of Prussia Mall gets a retail theft ticket and gets convicted – they can take heart they they are eligible for an expungement of those prints if they can stay clean for five years after their conviction date. So they have that going for them.