Theft and Shoplifting

What is Theft and/or Shoplifting?

Shoplifting falls under the category of "theft." In fact, it is the most common theft crime committed in Seattle. However, there is no independent crime of "shoplifting" - it is merely a term used to describe theft from a store.

According to RCW §9A.56.020, a person commits theft if he:

  • (1) Wrongfully obtains or exercises unauthorized control over another person's property or services, or the value of such property or services, with the intent to deprive him of such property or services; or
  • (2) Obtains, through deception, control over another person's property or services, or the value of such property or services, with the intent to deprive him of such property or services; or
  • (3) Takes another person's lost or misdelivered property or services, or the value of such property or services, with the intent to deprive him of such property or services.

There are three basic categories of theft: theft in the first degree, theft in the second degree, and theft in the third degree.

Theft in the First Degree:

According to RCW §9A.56.030, a person may be charged with theft in the first degree if he commits theft of:

  • (1) Property or services which exceed(s) f$5,000 in value (other than a firearm); or
  • (2) Property of any value (other than a firearm or motor vehicle) taken from another person; or
  • (3) A search and rescue dog while the dog is on duty; or
  • (4) Commercial metal property, nonferrous metal property, or private metal property, and the costs of the damage to the owner's property exceed $5,000 in value.

Penalties for Theft in the First Degree in Washington:

Theft in the first degree is considered a class B felony, which RCW §9A.20.021 defines as punishable by up to ten years in prison, a maximum fine of $20,000, or both.

Theft in the Second Degree:

According to RCW §9A.56.040, a person may be charged with theft in the second degree if he commits theft of:

  • (1) Property or services which exceed(s) $750 in value but does not exceed $5,000 in value (other than a firearm or a motor vehicle);
  • (2) A public record, writing, or instrument kept, filed, or deposited according to law with or in the keeping of any public office or public servant;
  • (3) Commercial metal property, nonferrous metal property, or private metal property, and the costs of the damage to the owner's property exceed $750 but does not exceed $5,000 in value; or
  • (4) An access device.

Penalties for Theft in the Second Degree in Washington:

Theft in the second degree is considered a class C felony, which RCW §9A.20.021 defines as punishable by up to five years in prison, a maximum fine of $10,000, or both.

Theft in the Third Degree:

According to RCW §9A.56.050, a person may be charged with theft in the third degree if he commits theft of property or services which:

  • (1) Does not exceed $750 in value, or
  • (2) Includes ten or more merchandise pallets, or ten or more beverage crates, or a combination of ten or more merchandise pallets and beverage crates.

Penalties for Theft in the Third Degree in Washington:

Theft in the third degree is considered a gross misdemeanor, which RCW §9A.20.021 defines as punishable by up to one year in jail, a maximum fine of $5,000, or both.

Defending a Theft Charge:

There may be a number of ways to defend a theft charge. However, your particular defense strategy will depend on the degree of the offense charged, among other things. One example of a defense to any charge of theft is that the property or service was taken or used openly under a good faith claim of ownership. Your defense strategy is crucial, and the help of a skilled criminal defense attorney is strongly advised.

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