Kathleen G. Kane - Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General - Protecting Pennsylvanians

 Click for the Spanish Translation

Criminal Offenses

Criminal Mischief

  • Criminal mischief is when you damage someone else's property, whether intentionally or by accident. It is also considered criminal mischief when you mark or draw on someone's property without their permission, known as graffiti. When you are playing with a paintball gun and intentionally shoot it at someone else's property, it is also considered criminal mischief.
  • If the damages exceed $5,000 or significantly damage public utilities, it is a third-degree felony. If the damages exceed $1,000, it is considered a second-degree misdemeanor. If the damages exceed $500 or are related to graffiti and exceed $150, it is a third-degree misdemeanor.

Littering

  • When someone throws paper, glass, metal or other garbage on the street or into the ocean or lake, he or she is guilty of littering under Pennsylvania law. In addition, when you knock over someone else's trashcan and do not clean it up, it is littering.
  • The first time you are arrested for littering, you may have to pay a fine of more than $50 and less than $300, or be put into prison for no more than 90 days. Subsequent offenses will be a third-degree misdemeanor requiring a fine that could be as much as $1,000. The offender also may be sentenced to prison or community service for almost a full year.

Shoplifting

  • A person is guilty of shoplifting if they take possession or transfer store merchandise that was displayed or offered for sale without intending to pay for the item. It is also considered shoplifting if you alter, transfer or remove any label, price tag or other marking related to the value of the merchandise so that you deprive the store owner of the full value of the merchandise. If you destroy or deactivate any security tag or device to prevent being caught for shoplifting, it is considered a shoplifting violation.
  • When someone intentionally tries to conceal unpurchased merchandise, it is considered a shoplifting violation.
  • The first offense, when the merchandise's value is less than $150, is considered a summary offense. It is a misdemeanor of the first degree when the offense is a first or second offense, and the merchandise is valued over $150. It is a felony of the third degree when the offense is the third or subsequent offense regardless of the merchandise's value.

Tobacco

  • Anyone under the age of 18 is guilty of a summary offense if the minor purchases or attempts to purchase any kind of tobacco product. If a minor intentionally tries to pass himself off as 18 or older in order to purchase tobacco, he is also guilty of an offense.
  • A minor found guilty of this offense can be sentenced to any or all of the following:
        o No more than 75 hours of community service
        o Complete a Department of Health tobacco use and cessation program
        o A fine not to exceed $200
        o A 30-day suspension of motor vehicle operating privileges
        o The minor's parents will receive notification of the citation

Truancy

  • Truancy is when a school-age child does not attend school for three or more days in a row without a valid excuse for his or her absence.
  • A parent or legal guardian is responsible to ensure children between the ages of eight and 17 attend school regularly. However, if the parent shows he or she took every reasonable step so that the child attends school, generally the court will not punish them. If the judge finds the parent could have prevented the truancy, the parent or guardian may be found guilty of a summary offence and fined up to $300 or required to complete an education program. 
  • A child can also get in trouble for being truant. If an attendance or law enforcement officer is told the particular child is truant, he or she can arrest the child and return them to the public school in which the child should be enrolled. If the judge finds the truancy is not the parent's fault, and the child is 13 or older, the child could be forced to pay a fine up to $300 or enter into an education program. Also, if the child has a driver's license, it can be suspended up to 90 days for the first truancy offense and up to six months for subsequent offenses. If the child does not have a license, their chance to apply for one can be suspended up to 90 days for the first offense and six months for additional offenses. 
  • Truancy does not apply to children involved in home-schooling programs.