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Understanding Theft by Deception in Pennsylvania

Theft is perhaps one of the most known criminal offenses. It is also one of the most complicated. There is no singular statute or criminal charge for theft, and it may be completed in numerous different ways.

Theft by deception is an offense in which property is stolen through trickery. An act of deception may be anything that creates a false impression upon the alleged victim. Theft by deception often occurs when the defendant allegedly deceives the victim about the property’s value, their intentions, or the law. You can defend yourself by challenging the deceptive nature of the alleged offense or the ownership of the property.

Contact our Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers for help immediately if you were charged with theft by deception. Call The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171 for a free case review to get started.

What Is Theft by Deception in Pennsylvania?

Theft by deception can be found under 18 Pa.C.S. § 3922. The law explains that a person may be convicted of theft by deception if they intentionally obtain or withhold another person’s property through deception.

The law does not specifically state that any particular person must be deceived for the crime to be completed. This means that a defendant could deceive the owner of the property or someone else who happens to be in charge of the property. A defendant might even deceive someone who does not actually have a right to the property but has access to the property.

Although theft by deception is often a nonviolent offense, it is still a serious criminal charge. Our Philadelphia theft defense attorneys can help you if you have been charged. If the value of the allegedly stolen property is quite high, a convicted defendant may face very harsh penalties, possibly even felony charges.

What Constitutes Deception in a Theft by Deception Case in Pennsylvania

What is considered deception is hard to pin down because any number of deceptive acts may constitute theft by deception. The statute mentioned previously mentions several broad situations where theft by deception may be completed. Contact our Bucks County criminal defense attorneys for help immediately if you are charged with this crime.

The false impression involved in the alleged offense may concern the value of the allegedly stolen property, the defendant’s intention, or the law. For example, suppose the defendant wanted to buy a rare baseball card from someone who did not understand the card’s value. They managed to buy the card at a very low price because they tricked the owner about its value. In such a case, they can be charged with theft by deception even though they paid money for the baseball card because they lied about its value.

Deception may also involve doing something that prevents another person from learning information that would affect their judgment of a transaction. This does not necessarily include directly lying to the other person but preventing them from learning the truth.

Additionally, if the property owner already has a false impression and the defendant fails to correct it, the defendant may be charged with theft by deception. The defendant must know that the victim’s impression is false and know the truth. If both parties are under a false impression, there is no theft.

How Does Theft by Deception Happen in Pennsylvania?

Theft by deception may happen in any number of scenarios. Take the baseball card example from above. Things like baseball cards and other valuables are frequently bought and sold by collectors. If someone in the business of buying and selling collectible lies to a customer about the true worth of their property to obtain it at a drastically reduced price, they may be charged with theft by deception.

Alternatively, a defendant might lie about their intentions with the property. One such example would be borrowing a friend’s and promising to return it the next day but driving off without any intention of coming back.

Instead, a defendant might create a false impression about the law surrounding a transaction. For example, when buying a house, the buyer might lie to the seller about who is legally responsible for closing costs and get the house for a lower price. The buyer might be charged with theft by deception in such an instance.

Defenses to Theft by Deception in Pennsylvania

Defending yourself against charges for theft by deception will depend on how the theft was allegedly carried out. There are many different ways to deceive a person, and there are just as many ways to defend yourself against these allegations. Our Northeast Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys can help you with your defense strategies.

You can argue against the existence of deception. For example, if you are accused of deceiving the victim by lying about the value of their property, you can argue that you did not lie. Perhaps your assessment of the property’s value was incorrect, but you did not intentionally lie. There are also cases where sales “puffing” could be misinterpreted as deception or where statements intended as jokes that no reasonable person would take seriously could be charged as lies.

You can also argue that the victim was unhappy with the transaction and accused you of deception as a way to get their property back. For example, a person who sells you their car for a cheap prove might rethink their decision later and decide they want the car back to sell for a higher price. You would need to show the alleged victim’s motive to fabricate the accusation in such a case.

You can also argue about ownership of the property. For example, perhaps you tricked the victim into handing the property over to you under some false pretenses. However, if the victim was not the rightful owner, and you were in fact the rightful owner reclaiming their property, there can be no theft.

Call Our Pennsylvania Theft Defense Lawyers for Help

Our Montgomery County criminal defense lawyers can help you fight the charges if you stand charged with theft by deception. We can work with you to clear your name of wrongdoing. Call The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171 for a free case review.