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Can stealing from an employer result in shoplifting charges?

On Behalf of | Apr 23, 2024 | Criminal Defense

Stealing from an employer can result in criminal charges. However, this type of theft is not the same as shoplifting.

Although both crimes involve taking something that does not belong to you, the key difference lies in the circumstances and the relationship between the thief and the victim.


Shoplifting, or retail theft, occurs when a person unlawfully takes merchandise from a retail store. It may include changing a label or price tag, putting merchandise in a different package, incorrectly scanning items or removing an electronic theft detection device. The thief is typically not an employee of the store and does not have a pre-existing relationship with the store owner.

Employee theft

Employee theft, or embezzlement, occurs when employees take property or funds belonging to an employer that the employer has entrusted them with. The items stolen may include money from the cash register, store merchandise, food or services. Embezzlement may also involve falsifying records to obtain money or conceal theft.

Penalties for theft in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, the penalties for theft vary depending on the value of the property stolen and the circumstances of the incident. First and second offenses result in misdemeanor charges. Third-degree felony charges apply in the following circumstances:

  • It is a person’s third or subsequent offense, regardless of the value of the merchandise
  • The amount stolen exceeds $1,000
  • The person stole a firearm or motor vehicle

Under Pennsylvania law, stealing is a more serious offense if certain aggravating circumstances are present, such as when a public servant does it or when the person steals a deadly weapon. These factors can result in harsher penalties.

Theft charges of any kind can impact people’s futures by causing them to lose professional licenses and keeping them from certain types of employment. It is important for those accused of theft to know exactly what charges they are facing.