Think before you consider shoplifting! Even small items can add up to big problems. Merchants of all kinds throughout Washington State put significant funding into loss prevention and do not hesitate to encourage prosecution of even the smallest offenses.
If you have been charged with a theft offense, we recommend the following key steps:
- Understand the charges
- Understand the penalties
- Involve experienced legal counsel
Understand the charges:
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. The degree is determined by the value of stolen item.
Third-degree theft (RCW §9A.56.050) may be charged if the property or services stolen:
- Do not exceed $750 in value, or
- Include 10 or more merchandise pallets, or 10 or more beverage crates, or a combination of 10 or more merchandise pallets and crates
Second-degree theft (RCW §9A.56.040) may be charged if the property or services stolen:
- Exceeds $750 in value but does not exceed $5,000 in value (other than a firearm or motor vehicle)
- Includes a public record, writing, or instrument kept, filed, or deposited according to law with or in the keeping of any public office or public servant
- Includes commercial metal property, nonferrous metal property, or private metal property, and the costs of the damage to the property fall between $750-$5,000 in value
- Includes an access device
First-degree theft (RCW §9A.56.030) may be charged if the property or services stolen:
- Exceeds$5,000 in value (other than a firearm)
- Includes property of any value (other than a firearm or motor vehicle) taken from another person
- Includes a search and rescue dog while the dog is on duty
- Includes commercial metal property, nonferrous metal property, or private metal property, and the costs of the damage to the property exceed $5,000 in value.
Understand the penalties:
Theft in the third degree
- considered a gross misdemeanor
- punishable by up to one year in jail, a maximum fine of $5,000, or both
Theft in the second degree
- considered a class C felony
- punishable by up to five years in prison, a maximum fine of $10,000, or both
Theft in the first degree
- considered a class B felony
- punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a maximum fine of $20,000, or both
Involve experienced legal counsel:
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.