Being accused of theft in Washington is a serious matter. In this state, theft is getting property or services with the intention of depriving its owners of that property or service’s true value or wrongfully taking property or obtaining services. Taking lost or mistakenly delivered property is also theft in Washington.
As in many other states in the US, theft in Washington is categorized based on the severity, with the value of the stolen service or item usually determining the penalty for the theft. However, keep in mind that with some types of property, such as firearms or cars, the stolen item’s value doesn’t determine the classification of the theft.
In Washington, penalties for crimes are split into two general categories, namely misdemeanors and felonies. If you have been charged with theft, it’s important to contact a defense law firm for help as you can be looking at jail time and fines if you are convicted.
Theft in the 1st Degree
When the value of a service or property–other than a motor vehicle or firearm–involved is over $5,000, you can be charged with theft in the first degree. This is a Class B felony in Washington, with a maximum jail sentence of ten years and a fine of not more than $20,000.
Theft in the 2nd Degree
For service or property values of over $750 but less than $5,000, you can be charged with theft in the 2nd degree. The theft of a device used to access an account–such as a card or code–is also theft of the 2nd degree. This is a Class C felony, and it carries a maximum jail term of five years and a fine not to exceed $10,000.
Theft in the 3rd Degree
When a theft involves services or property worth less than $750, it’s classified as theft in the third degree. Many cases of shoplifting in Washington fall under this charge, which is a gross misdemeanor. This charge carries a maximum penalty of 364 days in jail and a fine of $5,000.
Penalties for many felonies in Washington are governed by the state’s sentencing guidelines. This means judges have to stay within the sentencing range in the guidelines for the associated charge unless there are factors that allow them to impose a sentence that is below or above the guideline standard. Some people may even qualify for sentencing alternatives, such as a waiver for first-time offenders. Generally speaking, if you have been accused of theft but don’t have a criminal record, you will not receive the maximum sentence for your charge. Your defense law firm will help you with getting sentencing alternatives if you are eligible for them.
What Your Attorney May Ask
To properly prepare and plan for your legal strategy for your theft charge, your attorney may also ask you the questions below.
• Where were you when you were stopped? Were you still in the store? Were you before the checkout area?
• Does the store have shopping baskets or carts available for people to use?
• Did you have a personal bag with you at the time?
• Where were the stolen items recovered from?
• Did you make any admissions to anyone or give a statement? If so, what did you say and to whom?
Your attorney will likely have other questions as well, which will depend on the facts of your case and the circumstances surrounding the theft allegation. It’s important that you are completely honest with your attorney about what happened and how it happened. Without the proper information, your attorney will not be able to craft a sound legal strategy for your case.
Being charged with theft is not just embarrassing; it can have a long-term impact on your life and even affect your ability to get certain types of jobs in the future. If you have been charged with theft in Washington, the charge can stay on your record and you may be facing time in jail and fines as well. Contact a defense law firm for help as soon as you can. With something this serious, you can’t afford to try to handle it all on your own.