Theft is defined in the Revised Code of Washington as the act of “wrongfully obtaining or exerting 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.” Very commonly the term “shoplifting” is used interchangeably with “theft” but it is important to note that the State of Washington does not have any shoplifting statues. In Washington, shoplifting falls under the umbrella of theft. Understanding what a theft charge is, the different levels of a theft charge, what potential defenses are available, and your next steps are crucial to ensuring the protection of your freedom. Theft charges can have a serious impact on a person’s future because they are viewed by others as crimes of moral turpitude, or bad character crimes, which may not ultimately fit the facts of the alleged crime. This blog explores the most common types of theft charged in Washington. In a future post we will discuss other forms of theft such as organized retail theft, fraud, mail theft, and identify theft. 

What are the consequences of a theft charge or conviction?

In Washington, the consequences for theft can range from a gross misdemeanor to a class B felony carrying penalty from 0-364 days up to 10 years in prison depending on the type and severity of the theft, if proven. 

Theft 3rd Degree (Third Degree): Petty theft or theft in the third degree is the most common type of theft and is generally defined as theft of an amount not exceeding $750. Anything stolen under that amount is considered Theft in the Third Degree. Theft in the Third Degree carries a penalty of up to a year in jail and a $5,000.00 fine on a first offense. 

Theft 2nd Degree (Second Degree): Theft in the Second degree involves depriving another of their property or money in an amount between $750.00 and $5,000.00. Money, property, services, or goods below $750.00 can also be elevated to a Theft in the Second Degree if the item alleged in the theft is public record or access device. Unauthorized use or using a stolen credit or debit card would be one example of an access device. For example: if you took your ex-boyfriends credit card and charged a pizza too it and it cost $10.00 without his permission you could be charged with Theft in the Second Degree based solely on the unauthorized use of an access device. Other acts which elevate an otherwise petty or misdemeanor theft include theft of commercial metal property, nonferrous metal property, and private metal, such as the theft of a catalytic converter. Theft in the Second Degree is a class C felony and carries a penalty of up to 5 years in prison and a $10,000.00 fine. 

Theft 1st Degree (First Degree): Theft in the First Degree involves depriving another of their property or money in an amount over $5,000.00. Much like the Theft in the Second-Degree statute, certain types of thefts can be elevated to this most serious version of theft such as the theft of a search and rescue dog while it is on duty. Theft in the First Degree is a class B felony and carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000.00 fine. 


What should I do if I am charged with theft?

Hiring a lawyer is going to be your optimal choice in protecting your record and your freedom. Theft is a complicated area of law requiring a lot of research and gathering of evidence in order to defend your case. Theft often turns on a person’s an intent and the surrounding circumstances. No two cases are the same. In theft cases, the outcome of the case often is determined by the offender’s ability to build a defense, or to pay restitution to the aggrieved party, because often the most important thing to both prosecutors and victims is getting their property or money returned and being restored to their rightful position prior to the alleged act of theft. When this happens even some of the most serious cases can be reduced to misdemeanors, diverted away from the criminal justice system or dismissed. In the case of Theft 3 and other gross misdemeanors the law allows the alleged thief and the victim to work out a private settlement called a civil compromise in exchange for the charges being dismissed. 

At the Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer we are highly qualified and experienced in this area and defend our clients to the fullest extent of the law. The Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer strongly believes in obtaining justice for our clients, and enforce our clients right to a fair and speedy trial. When you hire the Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer you can expect that we work diligently to provide the best possible outcome for our clients.

Contact the Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer and schedule a free consultation to see what our attorneys can do for you.