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State College, PA 16801 March 10, 2016
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Is Petit Larceny in NY equal to Retail Theft in PA?

Every retail theft is a petit larceny, but not all petit larcenies are retail thefts…

On March 1, 2017, the Superior Court issued a ruling in a matter of first impression- that being whether an individual’s prior convictions for petit larceny in New York constitute prior offenses for determining the proper grading for the offense of retail theft in Pennsylvania.

In Commonwealth v. Vandyke, the defendant stole $14.50 worth of items from a Dollar General store, was prosecuted for Retail Theft, and pleaded guilty.  She had two prior convictions for the offense of petit larceny in New York- both shoplifting-related incidents- and those offenses were counted by the court as prior retail thefts, making this case a felony and punishable by up to seven years in jail.

Ms. Vandyke appealed the Judge’s ruling, arguing that petit larcenies should not count as prior offenses and the charge should have been therefore treated as a summary offense punishable by no more than 90 days for a first offense.  At issue in the appeal was whether New York’s petit larceny was “similar” to Pennsylvania’s retail theft statute- and also, whether the court could review police reports and look into circumstances of prior, out-of-state convictions to determine whether the facts underlying them were similar to Pennsylvania’s retail theft statute.

As the court stated, “A conviction for petit larceny would apply to the theft of items from a retail establishment, but would also apply to theft of a bike from outside a home, tools from a construction site, or any number of crimes not involving retail thefts.”  In pointing out the differences between these two crimes, the Superior Court decided that it was error for the sentencing court to count them as priors, finding that she was guilty only of a summary offense, not a felony.

If you or a loved one are charged with a crime and have a prior offense, it is important to have an experienced criminal defense attorney review the case and your prior record thoroughly.  Call the criminal defense lawyers at the Mazza Law Group to discuss your case confidentially.