Practice Area:  Criminal

Description:   Our client was charged with Third Degree Theft (“Theft 3”) in Municipal court for allegations of shoplifting. This was a repeat offense for client and he faced potential jail time in addition to hefty fines. Thorough investigation yielded evidentiary issues with store surveillance and we were able to negotiate outright dismissal of the charges.

Outcome:  Dismissal of all charges

Message:  Merchants of all kinds throughout Western Washington put significant funding into loss prevention and do not hesitate to encourage prosecution of even the smallest offenses. It is essential to understand the law and the consequences. What may seem like a minor offense could have a very detrimental outcome. Theft in Washington State is separated into three different categories, which are described here on our prior blog post. The degree is generally determined by the value of stolen items.

Third Degree Theft (RCW §9A.56.050) may be charged if the property or services stolen does not exceed $750 in value. Theft in the third degree is considered a gross misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to one year in jail, a maximum fine of $5,000, or both. This demonstrates that theft of relatively small value can add up to big problems. In addition to fines and jail time, you are faced with the implications of having a criminal record.

Of note:  Retail theft using an access device makes it a Second Degree Theft (“Theft 2”) charge, despite the dollar amount. An access device (RCW 9A.56.010) refers to any card, code, or other means of account access, and Theft 2 is a class C felony. It is important to clearly understand that shoplifting, even with a low property value, can in these circumstances become a felony and elicit very serious consequences.

If you or someone you care about has been charged with a criminal offense involving theft or shoplifting, contact a skilled criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The earlier you act the more options you may have. These are significant charges and you should not try to tackle them without experienced counsel to advise you appropriately and advocate on your behalf.