Retail Theft and ARD- New Law Changes How ARD Admission Will Affect Second Offenses

By: Dave Mueller, Criminal Defense Attorney

A recent change to Pennsylvania law dealing with second offenses for retail theft may affect the way future cases are handled in Pennsylvania, with the result being much higher potential consequences for some people. The change deals with how a prior admission to the ARD program for the offense of retail theft will affect those later accused of committing retail theft again.

Under Pennsylvania’s retail theft statute, a “first offense” retail theft involving property valued at less than $150 is graded as a summary offense, meaning that it carries a maximum $500 fine and up to 90 days in jail. A “second offense” for the same amount is graded as a misdemeanor of the second degree, carrying up to 2 years in jail and a $5000 fine. For many, the distinction between a summary offense and a misdemeanor offense can mean the difference between facing a small fine and facing lengthy probation, or even jail time. In all cases, the difference between a misdemeanor conviction and a summary conviction involves a lifetime with a criminal record, as misdemeanor convictions cannot be expunged until the individual is at least 70 years of age.

The major change in the new law deals with those who have previously been admitted to the ARD program for retail theft, and who are later charged with retail theft again. Under previous law, an ARD admission, which is not a “conviction” for any purpose under the law, was not considered a “prior offense” under the retail theft statute. As such, a person who successfully completed ARD for a first offense would face only a first offense summary violation if charged again. The new law expressly changes this, adding a definition of “prior offense” that includes:

…a conviction, acceptance of accelerated rehabilitative disposition or other form of preliminary disposition, occurring before the sentencing on the present violation…

This means that the same individual would now face charges for a misdemeanor of the second degree, and potentially much higher consequences.

This new law further highlights the need for representation by an experienced criminal defense attorney for anyone facing criminal charges. For some, the consequences of being accused of a criminal offense require consideration of not just the current situation, but also the entire history of the person. With potentially higher consequences at issue, even those accused of relatively “minor” offenses should not go into a criminal case without experienced, skilled representation.

If you or anyone you know has been accused of a crime in Pennsylvania, contact us today for a no charge consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney.

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