If you have been accused of theft or shoplifting in Washington State, a variety of things will be considered when your case is reviewed by a lawyer or the courts, particularly the value of what you may have stolen. The type of punishment you are given by the court, if you are convicted of theft, also will depend on how serious the theft is. Ultimately, the value of the stolen item or service determines the consequence for theft.
Degrees of theft in Washington State
As is the case in many states, theft in Washington State is separated into three different categories, called degrees. Each degree is determined by the value of the stolen item or service:
- Third-degree theft. The item or service is worth less than $750.
- Second-degree theft. The item or service is worth more than $750 but less than $5,000.
- First-degree theft. The item or service is worth more than $5,000.
Each degree has an associated maximimum sentence and/or fine.
Maximum sentences for Washington State theft
Each degree of theft is also considered a particular type of crime, such as a misdemeanor or a felony, by the courts. The maximum sentence for each degree of theft depends on the type of crime.
- Third-degree theft. This is considered a gross misdemeanor (minor crime). If convicted of a gross misdemeanor, you can be given a maximum sentence of 365 days in jail and/or a $5,000 fine (subject to change).
- Second-degree theft. This is considered a Class C felony (serious crime). If convicted of a Class C felony, you can be given a maximum sentence of 5 years in jail and/or a $10,000 fine (subject to change).
- First-degree theft. This is considered a Class B felony. If convicted of a Class B felony, you can be given a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail and/or a $20,000 fine (subject to change).
Keep in mind that these are the maximum sentences. If you are accused of any of these crimes but have little or no criminal history, it’s unlikely that you will receive the maximum sentence.
It’s also important to know that different laws apply for theft of motor vehicles, livestock, and firearms. In addition, crimes considered robbery, possession of stolen property, and/or extortion (getting money or valuable goods by abusing your position of authority, or through intimidation) are charged under different laws.
If you are accused of theft in Washington State
If you are accused of theft in Washington State, it’s advisable to contact an attorney in order to understand your options. Resolutions vary widely and include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Pleading guilty or not guilty.
- Being found guilty or not guilty if your case goes to trial.
- Asking the victim of the theft for a Compromise of Misdemeanor (after you have adequately compensated the owner for the item).
- Asking for a deferral (in which case a guilty plea could be withdrawn if you meet certain conditions set by the court).
- Making an agreement (Stipulated Order of Continuance) with the prosecutor.
The last three options are often reserved for people with little or no criminal history.