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Will I Go to Jail for First-Offense Shoplifting?

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Shoplifting from a store is a crime that can have varying consequences. In some situations, you may receive a gross misdemeanor charge and have to pay fines and complete community service – and in some cases, may result in jail time. In others, you might have to face felony-level penalties, including higher fines, additional administrative penalties, and a greater chance of serving jail time. The severity of the charge depends on the total of the theft and the number of previous offenses you have on your record.

What Is Shoplifting?

Shoplifting refers to the act of taking merchandise from a store without the intent to pay for the items. It can involve a varying amounts and types of items, ranging from small, inexpensive items that can fit into a pocket to items that have high value and are more difficult to steal without notice. Shoplifting is a crime throughout the United States, including Washington.

If police officers catch you shoplifting or believe that you are shoplifting, you could face significant penalties. Depending on the circumstances of the theft, the officers may charge you for petty theft, which is a lesser charge, or a felony, which is very serious and often results in jail time. It’s important to contact a Tacoma theft crimes attorney if you have been charged with shoplifting, a lawyer can help you avoid jail time or reduce the charges.

When Is Shoplifting a Felony?

Washington state classifies shoplifting crimes under three categories: theft in the third degree, theft in the second degree, and theft in the first degree. The type of charge you receive after a shoplifting incident depends on the value of the items you allegedly stole or attempted to steal.

  • If the alleged stolen property is $750 or less in value, you receive a third-degree theft charge, which is a gross misdemeanor. Under this charge, you could receive a fine up to $5,000, a jail sentence up to one year, or both.
  • If the alleged stolen property is between $751 and $4,999 in value, you will receive a second-degree theft charge, which is a class C felony. This crime is punishable by up to 5 years in jail, a fine up to $10,000, or both.
  • If the alleged stolen property is $5,000 or more in value, you will receive a first-degree theft charge, which is a class B felony. You may receive a fine up to $20,000, up to 10 years in prison, or both.

Most shoplifting cases are third-degree thefts, which could result in jail time. The smaller the value of the items you allegedly stole, the less likely you are to go to jail for shoplifting.

In addition, if you have previous shoplifting offenses on your record, the courts may take these into consideration before giving you a sentence. However, the circumstances of your case may differ – speak to an attorney to discuss potential penalties.

Do You Need an Attorney for Your Shoplifting Case?

Each case is different and you could face jail time for shoplifting, even if it is a first offense. To defend yourself in court and to work towards the best possible outcome, contact a Washington criminal defense attorney to assist you with your case. Your lawyer can provide you with a number of benefits, including the following.

  • Your attorney will have a strong knowledge of Washington theft law and the process you will need to go through. He or she will be able to guide you through each step of criminal justice system.
  • You may not have access to the tools necessary to build a strong defense. Your attorney can consult with a network of experts and utilize a variety of resources to help develop your case.
  • By having an attorney advocate for your side of the story, you can more adequately defend yourself against your charges than if you represented yourself in court.

If a Washington police officer arrests you for shoplifting and it is your first offense, it is highly unlikely that you will receive any jail time. However, the results vary from case to case – and you may be facing significant penalties. In these situations, you will need a criminal defense attorney on your side to advocate for the best possible outcome. Contact a lawyer as soon as you can following your arrest to discuss your options.

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