Session: 2023-2024

ACLU-PA Position: Opposes

SB 527 (PN 1288) would create a new, duplicative offense for theft of mail and would treat acceptance of ARD (accelerated rehabilitative disposition) as a prior conviction. Grading of the offense would range from a summary offense to a third-degree felony, punishable by imprisonment of up to seven years and a fine of up to $15,000.

Theft is already criminalized under current law. Rather than amending existing statute to clarify that "theft" includes "theft of mail," HB 527 instead creates a new, but redundant, offense. In our biennial More Law, Less Justice reports, the ACLU-PA repeatedly implores legislators to stop creating new offenses, as this practice leads to inconsistent, ad hoc grading schemes and arms prosecutors with the ability to stack multiple charges for the same action, threatening excessive punishment to secure plea deals.

SB 527 would also treat acceptance of accelerated rehabilitative disposition (ARD) as an adjudication of guilt to trigger penalty enhancements. ARD in Pennsylvania is a type of pretrial intervention that offers first-time offenders the ability to expunge that charge from their record upon successful completion of rehabilitation and supervision. Importantly, acceptance of ARD does not constitute a conviction. Using ARD to trigger punishments for an unrelated offense would undermine, if not defeat, the purpose and benefits of the ARD program.

Governor Shapiro signed SB 527 into law on December 14, 2023 as Act 41 of 2023.


Senator Frank Farry





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