Retail theft has become an increasingly serious and costly problem throughout the country. Takeover robberies carried out by multiple people (sometimes organized through social media) have spurred lawmakers in a number of states to strengthen their retail theft laws, create new laws addressing “organized retail theft” and increase penalties for those convicted. Many states have also created task forces of law enforcement officials and prosecutors to enforce these organized theft laws.
Now, Pennsylvania state lawmakers are working to crack down on this particular kind of crime. For example, a bill currently in the Pennsylvania Senate would make it easier for prosecutors to charge someone with a felony if they’re convicted of organized retail theft.
Proposed changes to the current law
Under the proposed revisions, the current monetary thresholds determining the severity of a retail theft offense would be lowered. Theft of merchandise valued at $300 to $1,199 would become a third-degree felony. That’s a significant change from the current amount of $5,000 to $19,999 that’s required for a third-degree felony charge.
Any theft of $1,200 in merchandise or more would be a second-degree felony. That’s down from the current $20,000 minimum. The proposed revisions would also add language to the definition of “organized retail theft enterprise” to reference “intent to resell or re-enter the merchandise into commerce.” Further, the legislation would create an Office of Deputy Attorney General for Organized Retail Crime Theft. It would also put a prosecutor and one or two special agents in each of five regions throughout Pennsylvania with the authority to investigate and enforce the amended law.
Store takeovers can result in serious charges
Whether this proposed legislation becomes law and, if it does, what the final law says is still to be determined. Yet, it’s crucial to know that if you get involved in one of these retail thefts, regardless of the level of your involvement, you could face serious charges. If you’re facing charges already, it’s wise to seek legal guidance to protect your rights and build the strongest possible defense strategy, as the penalties you may face are significant even without the increases proposed by state legislators.