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Ask/Answered is a weekly feature for reader-submitted questions. Follow the blog online at www.cumberlink.com:

What is the penalty for stealing a shopping cart in Pennsylvania?

This is a bit tricky since there are several possible crimes under which the theft of a shopping cart would actually fall.

But, for starters, the most explicit and easiest to explain is Pennsylvania’s law directly creating the offense of “illegal use of shopping carts or laundry carts.”

For this crime, the person taking the cart does not actually have to intend to steal the cart, per se. Borrowing a shopping cart, taking it off the premises and returning it would be considered an illegal use.

Under Pennsylvania law, it is illegal to remove a shopping cart or laundry cart from the premises of the business to which it belongs or the parking area without the permission of the owner. It is also illegal to possess a shopping cart that has been taken off the premises with permission, even if you are not the person who took it.

The crime is classified as a summary offense, similar to a traffic ticket, and is punishable with up to 90 days in jail and a fine not to exceed $300.

Stealing a shopping cart would also likely be considered theft, and possessing a shopping cart that is known to be stolen could be considered receiving stolen property. Both crimes carry their own penalties.

Theft offenses can be graded anywhere from a summary offense to a felony, depending on the value of the item stolen, the type of item stolen and the criminal history of the person accused of the theft.

For example, retail theft with a value of less than $50 by a person with no prior criminal history is considered a summary offense.

Theft can become a felony if, for example, the items stolen are worth more than $2,000, the item stolen is a firearm or a vehicle, or, in the case of retail theft, it is the person’s third or subsequent offense.

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