Our Pennsylvania attorney, Gary E. Gerson, provides skilled representation to individuals accused of theft and fraud offenses. Our Pittsburgh theft crimes lawyer provides representation to people charged with offenses such as theft by unlawful taking, identify theft and insurance fraud. For a theft and fraud defense attorney, contact our Pittsburgh law firm today at 412.567.0644. Our Pittsburgh law firm defends individuals charged with a wide range of theft and fraud crimes, such as:
Stealing property has been going on since there has been property. Kids steal statues off lawns, shoplifting at stores is rampant, people working on loading docks manage to divert merchandise to their own use, and on and on.
Theft obviously spans an extremely wide range of circumstances. Was it a one-time juvenile lark? Part of a career criminal’s criminal occupation? Was the thief planning on returning the property? Is the property as innocent as two packs of gum or as deadly as a crate of firearms? The state has a strong interest in enforcing property rights. But Pennsylvania, like other states, also takes note of these many variations.
Pennsylvania has many specific laws prohibiting and punishing theft. Some focus on the specific types of property stolen (firearms, automobiles), others on the location of the theft (retail stores, museums, libraries), and still others on the means used to steal the property (taking, deception, extortion). Many of these laws grade the crime based on the value of the property stolen.
Receiving stolen property is also a crime, with the “receiving” treated as a form of theft. Theft of services and diversion of funds received for a specific purpose also are crimes, and there are many others.
Note that in Pennsylvania, carjacking is classified as robbery, rather than theft, and is treated as a very serious first degree felony.
Depending on several factors such as the value and nature of the stolen property, theft may be classified as a summary offense; first, second, or third degree misdemeanor; or first, second or third degree felony. That’s an extremely wide range of penalties, from a maximum of 90 days for a summary offense to a maximum of 20 years for a first degree felony (ignoring prior convictions, etc).
The value of the property stolen frequently determines the seriousness of a theft offense. Pennsylvania law goes into specific detail on how the stolen property should be valued. The general rule is that the property should be assigned its market value at the time and place of the theft, if that’s possible, and if not, the cost of replacing the stolen property. Written instruments that evidence debt, like checks, are presumed to be worth the amount payable on the instrument. Other instruments are presumed to have a value equal to the greatest loss that the rightful owner could reasonably suffer from the theft.
If value can’t be assigned under those rules, the value is presumed to be less than $50.
If the theft is part of a single scheme, the amounts of each loss can be added together to determine the value.
Many theft cases rest on evidence that the police seized. There are many rules governing when and what the police can and can’t search. The general rule is that evidence obtained in violation of those rules can’t be used to establish the defendant’s guilt. An experienced theft crimes attorney understands how stops and searches occur in the real world, and the ways in which the police tend to cut some legal corners.
The value of the stolen property plays a big role in many theft cases. Needless to say, the state tends to value the property as highly as possible, raising the offense to a higher degree, and giving it more leverage in plea negotiations. A Pittsburgh criminal lawyer who has real experience with these cases knows when the value is being inflated, and how to get the valuation lowered to a more realistic level.
Theft cases can be defended by showing that some element of the charged crime is lacking. Many cases involve facts that cast doubt on whether the defendant had the necessary intent to support a theft charge. For example, if the owner of the property knows the defendant, the issue of permission may arise. If the defendant actually had permission to take or use the property, there is no theft as long as the defendant’s use was reasonably within the permission given. If the defendant simply thought that permission had been given, even if it the owner insists it had not, the defendant lacked the intent required to support a theft charge.
Pennsylvania’s theft laws are numerous and often overlapping. A single set of circumstances may allow the state considerable discretion as to which crime to charge, which determines which penalties you face. Depending on the circumstances, an experienced Pennsylvania theft crimes lawyer may succeed in getting the state to file less serious charges. And, the more experienced the lawyer, the better the chance of obtaining a favorable plea agreement if conviction seems unavoidable.
The sooner you get experienced legal help, the sooner you will know how much trouble to expect, and the easier it will be for your lawyer to minimize the amount of trouble. Gary Gerson has a history of success in handling criminal cases in Pennsylvania. It is important to know that if you wish to go to trial, Gary has the extensive trial experience that can potentially lead to a full acquittal. If you have been charged, or are about to be charged, with theft of any kind in the Pittsburgh area, put 25 years of experience on your side. Call Gerson Law today.
The penalties for conviction of these crimes vary, depending on several factors, including the value of the property stolen or unlawfully possessed. In either case, you need a skilled theft and fraud lawyer to defend you if you have been charged with any level of stealing or fraud. Contact our skilled theft and fraud lawyer at The Law Offices of Gary E. Gerson at 412.567.0644.