Perhaps you're shopping at Wal-Mart and are stopped by a loss prevention officer (LPO). Accused of stealing from their store, they ask you to go to the back of their store to answer questions and sign paperwork. Under Section 3929(d) of the PA Crimes Code, loss prevention representatives who have probable cause to believe you engaged in a retail theft may detain you to confirm your identity and recover merchandise.

If you are accused of committing a retail theft, you should hand the loss prevention officer or police officer your ID, and REMAIN SILENTDO NOT sign any paperwork or answer any questions about the incident. Politely tell the LPO or the Police Officer that you do not want to answer questions, and would like to speak with an attorney immediately. 

DO NOT fight or engage in a physical altercation with the loss prevention representatives as you can be charged with Robbery, Aggravated Assault, Simple Assault and other possible crimes.


The grading and penalties associated with a Retail Theft or Shoplifting offense vary based upon the value of items stolen and the number of prior offenses. If charged with Retail Theft, the following grading and penalties may apply upon conviction:

  • Summary Offense - Section 3929(b)(1)(i): Merchandise valued under $150 with no prior record of related charges, punishable by up to 90 days of jail time, fines up to $300, and a criminal record for a minimum period of 5 years, with the possibility of a permanent criminal record.
  • 2nd Degree Misdemeanor - Section 3929(b)(1)(ii): Merchandise valued at less than $150 with one prior offense, punishable by up to 2 years of jail time, fines up to $5,000 and a permanent criminal record.
  • 1st Degree Misdemeanor - Section 3929(b)(1)(iii): Merchandise valued at $150 or more with no more than one prior offense, punishable by up to 5 years of jail time, fines up to $10,000 and a permanent criminal record.
  • 3rd Degree Felony - Section 3929(b)(1)(iv): Punishable by up to 7 years of jail time, fines of up to $15,000 and a permanent criminal record if offender: 
    • Has 2 prior retail convictions, regardless of the retail value of the merchandise
    • Steals merchandise valued at over $2,000
    • Steals a firearm


In most retail theft prosecutions, the Commonwealth tries to establish your guilt by showing one or more of the following:

  • That you passed all cash registers and points of sale without paying for items
  • That you concealed merchandise on your person, or in a bag or purse
  • That you opened packaging or removed security tags
  • That you served as a lookout, or otherwise assisted someone else in committing a theft from the store
  • That you attempted to return stolen merchandise
  • That you swapped tags on items, paying less than the full retail value of the item
  • That as an employee, you charged less than the full retail price of an item
  • That you provided a written or verbal confession to a loss prevention employee or police officer
  • That you were captured on security cameras
  • That you served as a getaway driver for others who committed a theft


If you push, shove, or attack a store employee or police officer in the course of committing a retail theft, you will likely be charged with Robbery, Simple Assault and Harassment. If you commit a retail theft with a minor, you can be charged with Corruption of Minors, Endangering the Welfare of a Child and Criminal Conspiracy. Also, if you commit a retail theft with others, you will be charged with Criminal Conspiracy.


If you may be receiving charges in the mail, or are already charged with retail theft, contact the Zuckerman Law Firm today at 412-447-5580 for a free, confidential consultation. Our law firm has prosecuted and defended those accused of retail theft in state courts throughout the Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania region. We will walk you through the process, discuss the range of penalties that may apply, as well as our goals for a resolution of your case. Our goal is always to achieve one or more of the following outcomes:

  • Not-guilty verdicts and dismissals of weak cases.
  • Completion of retail theft offender classes and the payment of restitution for a withdrawal of your case.
  • Reduction of felony and misdemeanor retail theft charges to summary graded offenses.
  • Probation

Don't fight this alone. Let Zuckerman Law Firm fight for you. Call 412-447-5580 today.