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Theft by Deception, Unsworn Falsifying, and Official Oppression

November 01, 2018

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

A seven-year veteran of the Philadelphia police force was recently arrested for his alleged part in falsifying arrest paperwork, with a motive of directing credit and overtime pay to a fellow police officer. However, that officer was not even present during that particular arrest. The 29-year-old officer was charged with attempted theft by deception, official oppression, obstruction of justice, and unsworn falsifying, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Theft by Deception

Theft by deception is an offense in which someone intentionally obtains or withholds the property of another by means of deceiving them. Under Pennsylvania Criminal Statute 18 P.S.A. § 3922, an offense of theft by deception has occurred when the defendant:

  • Fabricates or reinforces a false impression as to the value of the property, the law, their intentions, or a state of mind
  • Prevents the other party from information that would have otherwise changed their mind; or
  • Does not correct a false impression of the victim that the defendant previously created or reinforced, and they have a fiduciary or confidential relationship with the victim.

The penalties for theft by deception vary depending on how much property was stolen. If no property was stolen, no crime occurred. Similarly, if no ordinary group of people would be swayed by the deception (because it is obviously utter nonsense or sarcasm), no crime was committed. However, for theft of property valued at $2,000 or more, it is a third degree felony. For property valued under $50, the penalty is a third degree misdemeanor. Theft of property that falls between the two is punished as a second or first degree misdemeanor.

Unsworn Falsifying

Under Pennsylvania Criminal Statute 18 P.S.A. § 4904, unsworn falsifying is an offense committed when a public servant, such as a police officer, intentionally misleads another party while performing their official function, when:

  • They write any written false statement which the offender believes to be untrue;
  • Submits or invites reliance on anything written which the offender knows to be either altered, forged, or lacks authenticity; or
  • Submits or invites reliance on any document, such as a map, boundary mark, sample, or other object known to be false.

Unsworn falsifying is a second degree misdemeanor.

Official Oppression

Under Pennsylvania Criminal Statute 18 P.S.A. § 5301, any person who is acting in official capacity or takes advantage of their real or fake official capacity is committing official oppression, which is a second degree misdemeanor, when they know that their conduct is illegal and they:

  • Arrest, put in detention, search, seize, mistreat, dispossess, assess, lien, or commit another infringement of personal property rights; or
  • Deny or impede another party their free exercise of a right, privilege, power, or immunity.

You Need to Contact a Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney

Whether you are an everyday citizen, police officer, elected official, or other governmental agent, make no mistake—you are in serious trouble if you have been charged with any of the above offenses. Your career, reputation, and freedom are on the line, and you are likely facing serious jail time in addition to fines. Take action by protecting yourself today by calling the Philadelphia criminal defense law offices of van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim.


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