The Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee today unanimously approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Tom Quigley (R-Montgomery) that would grade repeat violations of retail theft with greater severity for individuals who have completed an Accelerated Rehabilitation Program (ARD).
The Republican lawmaker said the legislation was prompted by repeated arrests for retail theft at the Philadelphia Premium Outlets in Limerick, which is part of Quigley's 146th Legislative District.
"The ARD program is valuable for individuals who made a one-time mistake, but completion of the program should still be considered as a first offense if an offender shows repeated contempt for the law," Quigley said in a press release. "Retail theft is not a victimless crime. Businesses lose billions of dollars annually to retail theft, and it’s the paying customers who absorb those costs."
Quigley said his legislation is in reaction to the case of Commonwealth v. Graeff, in which the Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that because the definition of second offense in the retail theft statute did not include participation in ARD, a subsequent offense must be considered another first offense.
House Bill 1603 would correct this multiple first offense loophole, allowing prosecutors to charge defendants who participated in ARD but continue to break Pennsylvania’s retail theft law with a second-degree misdemeanor, Quigley said.
Quigley noted that this is consistent with how Pennsylvania treats DUI offenses, where second and subsequent offenses recognize completion of ARD as a first offense.
Limerick Township Police Chief William J. Albany supports Quigley's bill.
"This is an important bill that closes a loophole in the law which allows second-time retail theft offenders to receive a more lenient sentence reserved for first-time offenders," Albany said. "I would like to thank Rep. Quigley for the expeditious manner in which he addressed this issue after it was brought to his attention by Limerick Township police detectives."
The bill now goes before the full House for debate and consideration, according to Quigley.