Theft Charges

shoplifting

An arrest is not a conviction

Theft or shoplifting charges in Washington State can be a gross misdemeanor (3rd Degree Theft) or a felony if the property in question is valued at more than $750. Since theft is considered to be a crime of moral turpitude, a conviction can result in employment termination or prevent future employment or housing opportunities.

Strong Evidence Situations

For a first time Theft 3 charge in Washington, we can normally prevent a conviction, even if you admitted to the crime or there was strong evidence from store surveillance video. In these types of cases it is important that we present evidence that you are a good person who had a one time lapse in judgement.

In some cases we are able to contact the store and make arrangements to pay for the stolen items. If the store agrees (in writing) that they have been adequately compensated, we can then file a motion (under WA State Compromise of Misdemeanor law) for the charges to be dismissed. A theft lawyer should contact the store or loss management department, to avoid a witness tampering situation.

Weak Evidence Situations

In some theft cases the evidence against you may not be very strong. In these situations, we will fight the allegations head on. For example, store employees can be very unreliable witnesses and their testimony can often times be discredited. An accusation of shoplifting can also be a simple misunderstanding, such as forgetting to pay.

In other situations you might be in the wrong place at the wrong time, such as when another person shoplifts and you are accused of being an accomplice. In King County and Seattle area courts, prosecutors have a tendency to file charges and ask questions later. Without a strong defender on your side, you could end up with a criminal charge that could have been prevented.

Third Degree Theft (Theft 3)

  • Stolen items are worth $750 or less
  • Gross Misdemeanor charge
  • Jail time up to 364 days or house arrest
  • Fines up to $5000
  • Court ordered restitution

Second Degree Theft (Theft 2)

  • Stolen items are worth between $751 and $5000
  • Class C felony
  • Jail time up to 5 years
  • Fines up to $10,000
  • Court ordered restitution

First Degree Theft (Theft 1)

  • Stolen property value exceeds $5000
  • Class B felony
  • Jail time up to 10 years
  • Fines up to $20,000
  • Court ordered restitution

Preventing a Conviction

It is a good idea to avoid any contact with the store or person who has accused you of theft. We also strongly advise you to avoid speaking to the police about your case so all of your rights can be protected.

At Beckwith Criminal Law, we can deal directly with the prosecutor and the person or store that has accused you of stealing. Even if charges have not yet been filed, we can provide:

  • Your side of the story
  • Any evidence that is favorable to you
  • Evidence that you are a responsible member of the community
  • Options that prevent a conviction or result in a slow dismissal of the charge

The police report only tells one side of the story and it rarely provides a complete picture of what actually happened. Please call us for a free consultation any day of the week. We have office locations in Seattle and Tacoma.