Shoplifting is a crime in Washington whereby people steal or unlawfully take goods from a retail establishment. The offense typically leads to a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to one year in jail. If you or a loved one is facing a shoplifting charge, you should contact a criminal defense lawyer now for help.
What is Shoplifting Under Washington Law?
Washington’s criminal laws label shoplifting as a type of theft crime. The offense is essentially the theft of goods from a retail establishment or store. People most often commit the crime by concealing an item or good:
- on one’s person
- in pockets,
- under clothes, or
- in a bag.
Offenders then leave a store without paying for the item concealed. With respect to the theft of clothes, a shoplifter may even put on a clothing item in a store and then leave the store while wearing that piece of clothing.
What are the penalties?
Prosecutors usually charge shoplifting as a misdemeanor offense. The crime is punishable by:
- custody in jail for up to one year, and/or
- a fine of up to $5,000.
Note that prosecutors in Washington can file theft crimes in three different ways depending on the value of the item stolen.
For example, theft in the first degree is the taking of property or services valued at over $5,000. The crime is a Class B felony that carries the maximum punishment of 10 years in jail and a $20,000 fine.
Theft in the second degree is the taking of property or services valued at over $750, but less than $5,000. The crime is a Class C felony that carries the maximum punishment of five years in jail and a fine of $10,000.
Theft in the third degree is the taking of property or services valued at less than $750. The crime is a gross misdemeanor that carries the maximum sentence of up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Since most shoplifting cases involve the taking of property with a value of less than $750, the offense is usually a misdemeanor. However, prosecutors can charge the crime as a felony if a person shoplifts property valued at over $750.
Can a Defendant Raise a Legal Defense?
Fortunately, people charged with shoplifting can challenge it by raising a legal defense. A common defense is for a person to show that he/she inadvertently left a store with one of its items. For example, maybe the party mistakenly put an item in a personal bag. Here, the party can argue that he/she took the good on accident or without any type of criminal intent.
People can also raise the defense that:
- there is insufficient evidence to prove the case,
- they were falsely accused of the crime based on mistaken identity, and/or
- the police violated one of their constitutional rights.
Contact Black & Askerov for Help
While a defendant can raise a legal defense to challenge a shoplifting charge, it will take a skilled criminal defense attorney to raise the best defense. The experienced theft attorneys at Black & Askerov have over 25 years of combined experience defending clients on shoplifting charges. Our Seattle criminal defense lawyers have the skill and commitment that makes all the difference in these types of cases. Our attorneys will fight tooth and nail for you at every step of your case. Contact us now to get the legal help you deserve!