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What Happens if I’m Charged with Shoplifting in Washington State?

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Theft is a crime in Washington, regardless of the value of the goods or the type of merchandise involved. Many people believe that shoplifting, or the act of stealing goods from a store while pretending to shop, is a less serious crime than other forms of theft, but that is not always the case. Unlike other states, Washington law does not distinguish between theft and shoplifting. As a result, any person caught shoplifting will face theft charges based on the value of goods he or she stole.

Washington Shoplifting Laws

Under RCW 9A.56.020, Washington defines theft as the wrongful obtainment or exertion of unauthorized control over the property or services of another person. Any person who steals items from a store violates this law and can face criminal charges for theft.

Most shoplifting cases fall under the category of theft in the third degree.

  • Theft of property worth $750 or less; or
  • Theft of 10 or more merchandise pallets, beverage crates, or a combination of merchandise pallets or beverage creates

Second-degree theft, on the other hand, is a more serious charge that involves the theft of property worth more than $750 and less than $5,000. The most serious shoplifting charge is first-degree theft, which involves stealing property worth more than $5,000.

It is possible for two people involved in the same shoplifting crime to receive different sentences. For example, if one person steals a $3,000 necklace while another person pockets a $500 ring, the person who stole the necklace will receive a second-degree theft charge and the person who stole the ring would receive a third-degree charge.

Possible Legal Consequences for a Shoplifting Conviction

If you are facing a shoplifting conviction, you could face serious penalties, including fines and jail time. Courts assign criminal penalties based on the facts of the case and state guidelines. Potential consequences for shoplifting convictions include the following.

  • If you receive a charge for theft in the third degree, you will face a gross misdemeanor conviction. You could receive up to one year in jail and/or a fine up to $5,000.
  • If you are facing second-degree theft charges, you could receive a class C felony conviction. This crime is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and/or a maximum fine of $10,000.
  • If you received a first-degree theft charge, you could face the most serious theft penalties in Washington. A conviction is a class B felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $20,000.

What to Expect After Being Charged with Shoplifting

If you receive a shoplifting charge, a number of steps occur between the arrest and the conviction. Following a shoplifting arrest, a police officer will create a report. A Washington prosecutor will review the report and determine whether or not the state should file charges against you.

If the prosecutor does decide to pursue charges, you may attend a series of pre-trial hearings before attending your criminal trial. At your trial, the court will review the facts of your case and determine whether or not you should receive a conviction. Your case may also resolve before trial during negotiations.

When facing any type of shoplifting charge, you need an attorney on your side. A Tacoma theft attorney can guide you through the criminal justice process and advocate for the best possible outcome in your case. As soon as possible following your arrest, contact an attorney to discuss your next steps.

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