Shoplifting might sound like a minor crime – slipping something into your pocket and walking away. However, under state law, shoplifting charges are a misdemeanor or even a felony, meaning not only might you have to pay fines and perform community service if convicted, but you may also have to serve jail time. The severity of the charges against you will depend on the value of items shoplifted and whether or not you have a previous criminal record.
How does the law define shoplifting?
Here in Washington, shoplifting falls under theft crimes. Specifically, shoplifting is the act of taking merchandise without the intent to pay for it. Merchandise can be small and inexpensive items that fit in a pocket or bag, like jewelry, or extremely large and valuable items, like home electronics.
If you’re arrested for theft, you can expect to be charged with a crime as well as pay civil restitution to the business from which you were accused of shoplifting. Conviction of a crime can lead to a criminal record, which is why you must take shoplifting charges seriously.
Shoplifting charges and penalties
Washington State classifies shoplifting as theft charges, and the type of charge and penalty for conviction depends on the value of the items allegedly stolen. If the property was valued at:
- $750 or less. Theft in the third degree, a gross misdemeanor. Fines up to $5,000 and jail up to one year, or both.
- $751 to $4,999. Theft in the second degree, a Class C felony. Fines up to $10,000 and jail up to five years, or both.
- $5,000 or more. Theft in the first degree, a Class B felony. Fines up to $20,000 and up to 10 years in prison, or both.
The majority of shoplifting crimes are third-degree thefts, and the lower the value of the items, the less likely the chance of going to jail. However, if you have previous offenses, you may face higher penalties. An experienced attorney can work to help negotiate a better outcome for your case.
Defenses to shoplifting charges
Shoplifting and theft charges can be confusing and embarrassing. Sometimes it’s an accident, sometimes it’s a mistake. Whatever your situation, you have the right to defense. Some common defenses to shoplifting charges include:
- You did not intend to leave the store with the merchandise
- Security camera footage proving your innocence
- You had no intent to deprive the store of merchandise
- Dismissal of case due to failure to produce evidence
Every case is unique, so there may be other circumstances specific to your case.
The criminal defense attorneys at Philbrook Law Office provide experienced representation when you are facing theft charges. We protect your rights and work for the best possible outcome. To discuss your case, please call our offices in Vancouver or Battle Ground, WA. You can reach us at 360-695-3309 or fill out our contact form.
Founding Attorney Matthew Philbrook attended Clark College, Washington State University, and Gonzaga University School of Law. He is a member of the Washington State and Oregon State Bar Associations and started Philbrook Law Office in 2005. He specializes in Personal Injury, DUI and Criminal Defense cases. Learn more about Mr. Philbrook.