Theft isn’t a victimless crime, even if you take items seemingly abandoned by their owners. Like other U.S. states, Pennsylvania has laws prohibiting stealing, and those convicted are punished according to the total value of the items they thieved.
Pennsylvania also happens to have a law specific to theft from automobiles. Parked cars often have items still inside, making them popular targets for thieves. Because the state has a specific law, if you face charges for theft from a motor vehicle, will you face different penalties than those levied against regular theft offenders?
Similar penalties to regular theft, but…
Anyone charged with theft from a motor vehicle mostly faces the same penalties as those accused of regular theft. Even the grading of the offenses is similar, based on the value of the items stolen:
- Amount of items involved less than $50: This is a third-degree misdemeanor. On conviction, the person faces up to a year in prison and as much as $2,500 in fines.
- Amount of items more than $50, less than $200: A second-degree misdemeanor. Those convicted face up to two years in prison and as much as $5,000 in fines.
- Amount of items greater than $200: The crime becomes a first-degree misdemeanor. If a person is convicted of the offense, they face up to five years in prison and as much as $10,000 in fines.
However, there’s one notable difference: If the person is convicted of their third or subsequent theft from motor vehicle offense within five years, the offense becomes a third-degree felony regardless of the amount involved.
Other ways theft from vehicles immediately becomes a felony
Pennsylvania’s other laws can apply to theft from motor vehicle cases, enhancing the crime and penalty. For instance, stealing the following items from a car is an immediate felony of the second degree:
- Anhydrous ammonia (nitrogen fertilizer)
- Property worth between $100,000 and $500,000
Theft from motor vehicles also becomes a second-degree felony if the offense occurred during a natural, war-caused or manmade disaster.
A conviction for a second-degree felony leads to up to 10 years in prison and as much as $25,000 in fines.
In summary, stealing from a parked car is an offense treated much like regular theft. Those convicted face thousands of dollars in fines and years in prison. If you face accusations, consider your legal options carefully because you could face imprisonment.