A theft charge in Pennsylvania could result in either a misdemeanor or felony conviction depending on the amount of property allegedly taken. For a conviction, however, a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that an individual intentionally used deception to receive money or property.
The Keystone State’s definition of deception involves reinforcing or creating a “false impression,” as described on its general assembly website. Causing another individual to believe something is true when it is actually false in order to acquire property or money could result in a theft charge.
If two parties engage in a transaction and one individual prevents the other from seeking information relevant to the exchange, it may fall under the category of deception. In some circumstances in which one individual owes a fiduciary duty to another, he or she may need to correct any false beliefs or misinterpretations before concluding a transaction.
Conducting due diligence
The internet is rampant with information, some of which may be true, half-true or entirely false. Without providing thorough details about an individual, product or service, some individuals may reasonably interpret conducting an online transaction as an exchange somewhat resembling theft by deception.
When a 32-year-old Pennsylvania woman created online pages to solicit donations reportedly to help pay for expensive medical treatments, many individuals became skeptical and began accusing her of fraud. After she raised more than $10,000 online, her husband filed a report with law enforcement officials documenting his own suspicions. According to WCAU NBC 10, officials arrested and charged her with theft by deception-false impression and receiving stolen property.
Making outrageous statements, online or elsewhere, that a reasonable person would not perceive as true is generally not against the law. To successfully fight a theft charge, however, requires a strong legal defense.