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How is Felony Theft Defined in Washington?

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Washington’s theft statute covers a wide range of crimes, including shoplifting, embezzlement, and possession of stolen property. Penalties for these crimes can range from minor fines to years in prison, depending on the severity of the incident. Theft crimes are often charged as either misdemeanors or, in serious cases, felonies.

Felony theft often involves high-value items and aggravating factors, such as the theft of a firearm or motor vehicle. These crimes can result in much more serious penalties than misdemeanor charges. If you are facing charges for felony theft in Washington, it is critical to speak to an attorney as soon as possible to build a defense. 

How Is Theft Defined under Washington Law?

In Washington, a person commits theft when he or she intends to deprive another person of property or services. The term property may include anything of value, including tangible objects and intangible items. Any business’s services may be at risk of theft, such as those in the labor, professional, hospitality, transportation, restaurant, entertainment, and public utility industries.

Generally, theft can involve any of the following acts:

  • The offender obtains control over the property or services using deception.
  • The offender wrongfully obtains or exerts unauthorized control over the property or services of another person or entity.
  • The offender takes lost or mis delivered property or services for oneself that belong to another person or entity.

Second- and First-Degree Felony Theft in Washington

There are three degrees of theft in Washington. Third-degree theft is a gross misdemeanor crime involving the theft of property or services worth $750 or less. Second- and first-degree theft are felony crimes, and involve the following criteria:

  • Second-degree theft involves stolen property or services worth more than $750 but less than $5,000.
  • First-degree theft involves stolen property or services worth more than $5,000. It can also involve the theft of a firearm or motor vehicle, or the taking of property directly from a person, regardless of value.

If you are convicted of second-degree theft, you could face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. For first-degree theft, you could face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000.

When Does Shoplifting Become a Felony Crime?

In Washington, shoplifting crimes carry significant penalties based on the value of the stolen merchandise. The alleged offender could face additional consequences if he or she does any of the following while carrying out the crime:

  • The offender left the store using an emergency exit.
  • The offender committed theft at three or more retail stores within 180 days.
  • The offender used a device or instrument to bypass security while committing the crime.

Most shoplifting crimes are classified as gross misdemeanors when the merchandise is worth $750 or less. However, if the case involves special circumstances or the stolen property is more than $750, it will be charged as a felony. The same penalties that apply to felony theft will also apply to felony shoplifting. 

Speak to a Washington Criminal Defense Attorney Today

Are you facing charges for felony theft in Washington? To protect your rights, freedom, and finances, you need a Tacoma theft attorney on your side who can fight for the best possible outcome. 

A Washington criminal defense lawyer can work to help reduce the charges against you or, in some cases, get them dismissed completely. Contact an attorney as soon as possible following your arrest to discuss your next steps.

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