What is Theft?
The crime of theft in Washington state involves taking something that belongs to someone else, without the owner’s permission. Theft can be committed not only by taking physical items, but also by taking services that one is not entitled to. Shoplifting is a common form of theft.
Washington state law classifies theft into three different types: first, second, and third degree. The seriousness of each type depends on the value of the property that was taken.
When the item or services taken is worth more than $5,000, that is first-degree theft and is a Class B felony. The maximum punishment is 10 years in jail and/or a fine of $20,000.
When the item or services taken is worth between $750 and $5,000, that is second-degree theft, and it is a Class C felony. The maximum punishment is 5 years in jail and/or a fine of $10,000.
When the item or services taken is worth less than $750, that is third-degree theft and is classified as a gross misdemeanor. The maximum punishment is 1 year in jail and/or a fine of $5,000.
The punishments described above are the maximum punishments that a judge is allowed to impose. The actual punishment may be much less. Washington State has a sentencing guidelines system for felonies that takes into account both the seriousness of the crime and the prior criminal convictions of the defendants. Judges under the Washington system are not totally locked into the guidelines. They may still use their discretion when ordering punishment.
If you have been charged with theft, you should consult an experienced Washington criminal defense lawyer right away. A good attorney can help you navigate through Washington’s complicated criminal justice system and help you get the best outcome possible.
Special Categories of Theft
The law in Washington also makes special provisions for the theft of certain specific types of goods or services. These include the theft of vehicles, firearms, mail, livestock, rented property, cable or other TV subscriptions, phone services, and even shopping carts.
For example, the minimum fine for the theft of livestock is $2,000 per each animal taken or killed. There are two degrees of livestock theft. First-degree is when the livestock is taken with the intent to sell, and second-degree is when someone takes livestock for their own use.
The other special provisions are similarly complicated and you should consult an attorney if any of them apply to you.
In Washington state, shoplifting is considered a type of theft and is treated seriously. The punishment for shoplifting, like the punishment for other types of theft, depends on the amount that was taken, the criminal history of the person charged, and in some cases the type of object that was taken.
If you have been accused of shoplifting you should consult a criminal defense attorney to find out what your options are and what your next step should be.
Being charged with theft can be life-changing. The best thing you can do is to get an experienced, dedicated, and aggressive criminal defense lawyer by your side guiding you through the process. Fill out our contact form and let us help you through this challenging time.