Theft offenses are those that involve the stealing or possession of property that belongs to someone else. Some common examples include:
- possession of stolen property, and
- vehicle theft.
These types of crimes can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. The decision about what charge is brought is largely based on the value of the property taken. If you or a loved is facing theft charges in Washington State, it is critical that you contact a criminal defense attorney today.
Misdemeanor Petty Theft v. Felony Theft
RCW 9A.56.020 is the Washington statute that defines the crime of theft. According to this law, theft means:
“To wrongfully obtain or exert unauthorized control over the property or services of another or the value thereof, with intent to deprive him or her of such property or services.”
The statute also states that theft can mean:
“To appropriate lost or misdelivered property or services of another, or the value thereof, with intent to deprive him or her of such property or services.”
The penalties for these crimes vary widely mostly according to the value of the property stolen. The theft of property worth $750 or less, for example, constitutes theft in the third degree, which is a gross misdemeanor under state law. It is punishable by up to one year in jail and up to $5,000 in fines.
If the property is worth more than $5,000, or if it was taken directly from a person, the crime becomes theft in the first degree, which is a Class B felony. This means that the person charged may face as much as 10 years in prison and $20,000 in fines.
If the property is worth between $750 and $5,000, or if it is an access device (credit card, ATM card, etc.), the crime is theft in the second degree, which is a Class C felony. This means that the person charged may face as much as 5 years in prison and $10,000 in fines.
Legal Defenses to Theft Charges
Fortunately, a defendant can raise a legal defense to challenge a theft charge. One common defense is for an accused to show that he or she did not act with an intent to permanently deprive the “victim” of the property. Perhaps, for example, the defendant merely borrowed someone’s property with the intent to give it back.
A defendant can also raise a claim of right defense. This is where the accused shows that he or had an honest and reasonable belief that the property in question actually belonged to him or her. The defense applies even if this belief was incorrect.
People also get falsely accused of theft, which means a defendant can assert that he or she was unjustly blamed. Oftentimes, a business deal gone sour can lead to false accusations of theft. Further, an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend (or spouse) may falsely accuse a former partner out of revenge or jealousy.
Contact Black & Askerov for Help
If you or a loved one is facing a theft charge, our firm is here to help. Our theft attorneys have over 25 years of combined experience representing clients on theft charges. They are tireless in their efforts and fight for their clients every step of the way. Contact them now to get the representation that makes all the difference.