What Is the Legal Difference Between Theft and Stealing?

In Pennsylvania law, there is no distinction between theft and stealing. Both refer to the act of unlawfully taking someone else’s property without their permission. This can encompass a range of actions, from shoplifting to embezzlement. However, state law distinguishes between different types of stealing based on the circumstances under which they occur. The main types of stealing-related offenses in Pennsylvania include theft, burglary, and robbery. Here’s how they differ:

Theft: Taking Without Permission

In Pennsylvania, theft involves unlawfully taking or exercising control over another person’s property with the intent to deprive the owner of the property. This definition can apply to a wide variety of actions. For instance, if someone takes a bicycle from someone’s yard without permission and intends to keep it, that could be considered theft. Similarly, stealing items from a store typically is considered theft.

When someone deceives another person in order to take possession of the person’s property, that is  known as theft by deception. The severity of the penalty for theft in Pennsylvania depends on the value of the stolen property and the nature of the theft.

Burglary: Unlawful Entry with Intent

Burglary involves entering a building or occupied structure with the intent to commit a crime therein.  It’s worth noting that the intended crime inside doesn’t have to be theft – it could be any offense, like vandalism. For example, if someone breaks into a house to vandalize it, that’s still burglary. A person may have a defense to burglary if the building or structure is abandoned, the premises are open to the public, or they have permission to enter. Burglary is typically a first-degree felony in Pennsylvania, unless nobody is present in the building or structure at the time of the crime, in which case it is a second-degree felony.

Robbery: Theft by Intimidation or Force

Robbery is a more serious crime because it involves theft by intimidation, force, or threat of force. For example, a mugger who harms someone or threatens to harm someone unless they hand over their wallet could be charged with robbery.

Robbery is always a felony in Pennsylvania, and the degree of the felony depends on numerous factors. For instance, a person is guilty of first-degree robbery if, in the course of committing theft, they inflict serious body injury on another person. Furthermore, if the object of the robbery is a controlled substance or designer drug, the robbery would be a first-degree felony. Stealing or taking a motor vehicle from the owner of the vehicle could also be a first-degree felony.

Contact a Theft Defense Lawyer in Pennsylvania Now

If you or someone you know is facing theft charges in Pennsylvania, knowledgeable and experienced legal defense is essential. At Chieppor & Egner, our criminal defense lawyers understand the complexities of theft-related offenses and are here to provide robust legal support tailored to your situation. Don’t let theft charges dictate your future. Reach out to Chieppor & Egner today for a consultation.

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