The House Judiciary Committee approved a measure, HB 1603, that would grade repeat violations of retail theft with greater severity for individuals who have completed an Accelerated Rehabilitation Program (ARD).

The sponsor of the legislation, Tom Quigley, R-Montgomery, said in a statement that the legislation was 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 noted that this is consistent with how the Commonwealth treats DUI offenses, where second and subsequent offenses recognize completion of ARD as a first offense.

The measure will now go before the full House for debate and consideration.