Firm Logo
Call for a Free Consultation215-486-0123

Are There Defenses to Theft in Pennsylvania?

March 26, 2020

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

A Pennsylvania man was sentenced in late January for stealing electronics, mainly Apple products, from a Target store. The man, Akbar Aiken, and his brother Elijah used a blowtorch to open the back metal door of the store so they could enter and retrieve the products. Akbar pled guilty, showed remorse for his actions, and was sentenced to one year in jail while his brother was sentenced to 15 months last August.

Due to the fact that Akbar had admitted in open court that he was involved in the scheme, there were few defenses available in his case. However, not everyone charged with theft is guilty of the crime. Below are just a few of the most common defenses used in theft cases in Pennsylvania.

The Defendant Owned the Property

When a person believes that the goods they stole were rightfully theirs, this can provide a valid defense to theft charges. However, a defendant must do more than simply state they believed the property belonged to them. They must provide evidence that proves it.

For example, imagine that a girl goes to work and leaves an expensive pair of sunglasses in her locker in a staff room. After her shift, she discovers that her sunglasses are missing. The next day, she notices a co-worker has the same sunglasses and that they have been left in a locker. Suspecting that the sunglasses rightfully belong to her, she takes them back.

If she was charged with theft for the act, she could argue that she rightfully thought the sunglasses belonged to her. If she had told someone she suspected her co-worker stole them and that person testified to that fact, that could provide the necessary evidence.


Voluntary intoxication is not a defense to any crime in Pennsylvania. That is, someone cannot knowingly get drunk or become impaired by another substance, commit a crime, and use that as a defense.

However, there are certain situations when involuntary intoxication can serve as a valid defense. If someone was unknowingly drugged by another person, or took a prescription without knowing it carried side effects of intoxication, that could provide a defense to theft charges.

Returning the Property

Generally speaking, returning property does not provide a defense to a theft charge. The court will likely consider the defendant guilty because they still committed the crime before giving the property back to the rightful owner. However, returning stolen property can show that the defendant is remorseful about their actions. That can provide sufficient evidence when trying to bargain with the prosecution for a plea deal, or getting charges reduced.

Have You been Charged with Theft? Call Our Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Lawyers

If you are facing charges of theft, you should not handle your case on your own. At van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim, our Allentown criminal defense lawyers understand the best defenses to use to give you the best chance of beating the charges, or at least getting them reduced. Call us today at (215) 486-0123 or contact us online so we can get started on your case.



Criminal Defense
Firm Logo
Allentown Office609 Hamiltion St,Suite 7Allentown, PA 18101Map & Directions
Philadelphia Office1219 Spruce StPhiladelphia, PA 19107Map & Directions
Montgomery County Office411 Cherry St.Norristown, PA 19401Map & Directions
Follow Us
Make A Payment