Theft crimes in WA

Vancouver, WA Theft Lawyers

Experienced attorneys for Washington clients charged with theft crimes

There are all types of theft, from shoplifting up to grand schemes to defraud people. There is theft of money, theft of identity, theft of merchandise, and theft of services. You can be charged and convicted for stealing objects, for stealing living animals, or for being in receipt of items that have been stolen.

At Philbrook Law Office PS, our Vancouver, WA theft defense lawyers fight for you the moment we take you on as a client. We work to show there is a justifiable defense, that the value of the items is lower than charged, and that evidence was seized improperly. We fight to obtain dismissals, and to negotiate plea reductions to lesser offenses. We seek alternative resolutions for thefts that don’t include acts of violence. Contact our criminal defense attorneys today to get started on your case.

How does Washington State define “theft”?

To be charged with theft, you must be charged with one of the following:

  • Wrongfully obtaining or controlling property or services of someone (with wrongful intent)
  • Using deception to obtain control of property or services (with intent)
  • Taking lost or misdelivered property or services (with intent)

A defense to theft is that the taking of the property or service was “open” under a claim of title made in good faith, even though the claim wasn’t tenable.

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What are the core types of Washington State theft crimes?

Theft crimes are generally classified by the value of the items taken and the type of items taken. Most defendants will be charged with theft in the first, second, or third degree. They may also be charged with additional theft crimes based on the specific item taken and the way the theft happened.

  • Theft in the first degree. Class B felony. Theft of the first degree, with some exceptions, involves:
    • The taking of property or services worth $5,000 or more – other than firearms which are handled differently
    • The taking of any property – from another person
    • Theft of a search or rescue dog while the dog is on duty
    • Theft of various of types of metals worth $5,000 or more
  • Theft in the second degree. Class C felony. These charges include theft of:
    • Property or services worth more than $750 and less than $5,000 – other than a firearm or motor vehicle
    • Other specific items such as metals worth $750 or more and certain public records
  • Theft in the third degree. Gross misdemeanor. This charge covers theft of property or services worth less than $750 and theft of certain specific items.

Other specific theft crimes include:

  • Unlawful issuance of checks or drafts
  • Theft of a motor vehicle
  • Theft of livestock
  • Extortion in the first or second degree
  • Possession of stolen property, in the first, second, or third degree
  • Robbery
  • Theft of TV subscription services
  • Shopping cart theft
  • Illegal credit, debit cards, and check transactions
  • Financial fraud
  • Organized retail theft
  • Mail theft
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How do robbery, burglary, and theft differ?

Washington State uses “theft” as a catchall term for stealing. Here, as in Oregon, we have felony theft and misdemeanor theft.

  • Robbery is committed against another person, like a mugging or holding up a convenience store. It is considered a crime against a person, and requires use of force or the threat of imminent use of force. While it is a form of theft, it is categorized as crime against a person.
  • Burglary is a theft crime committed against a structure, like breaking into someone’s house to steal a TV. To prove burglary, the prosecutor must show that the defendant was not invited into the structure, and that he or she intended to steal. Thus, a person can be convicted of burglary even if he or she took nothing from the structure.

Of the two charges, robbery often carries the more severe penalties. Contact the Vancouver, WA defense lawyers of Philbrook Law Office as soon as possible if you are being charged with theft, burglary, or robbery.

What defenses can be asserted if you are charged with a Washington theft crime?

Our Vancouver, WA theft defense lawyers have been fighting for defendants charged with crimes for 20 years. We’ve obtained numerous dismissals. In many cases, we’ve been able to negotiate a reduction in the charges to less serious offenses including cases where we’ve been able to help defendants avoid prison sentences.

In theft cases, we often assert that:

  • You had a legal claim to the property or services
  • There was no “intent” to deprive the owner of the items taken (for example, that you did intend to pay for the items)
  • That the value of the items is less than basic thresholds of $750 and $5,000
  • You were falsely accused; someone else took the property or services
  • You had consent to take/use the property or services
  • The prosecution is not able to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt
  • The government violated your Fourth Amendment rights when it seized the property
  • The government violated your Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination

Alternatives to sentencing and convictions for theft offenses

The fallout from a conviction can be severe and long-lasting. Washington has a first-time waiver program which can help defendants avoid long-term prison sentences – if you qualify and if you comply with specific requirements.

To qualify for the first-time offender program, you must:

  • Not have a prior conviction for a felony – in any federal or state court
  • Not have participated in another deferred felony prosecution program
  • Not be convicted, in the current case, of a felony based on:
    • A violent offense or a sex offense
    • Most drug offenses - with some exceptions
    • A felony DUI

The court can:

  • “Waive the imposition of a sentence within the standard sentence range and impose a sentence which may include up to ninety days of confinement in a facility operated or utilized under contract by the county and a requirement that the offender refrain from committing new offenses.”
  • Impose up to six months of community service or treatment and community service combined for up to one year.
  • Order that the defendant pay certain financial obligations and/or “perform community restation work.”

Other alternatives to confinement may apply. Work release may be available.

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Help when you’re facing theft charges in Washington or Oregon

At Philbrook Law Office, our Vancouver, WA theft defense lawyers understand how frightening any theft charge is. A conviction can mean a prison sentence, large fines, being required to pay for the value of the items takes. Since most theft crimes of any value are felonies, you may lose your voting rights and right to carry a firearm. Any conviction can make it difficult to find a job, obtain credit, or find a place to live.

That’s why we fight aggressively to exclude evidence, seeks dismissals of the charges, to negotiate plea bargains, and to try your case before a jury. To discuss your theft case at one of our offices in Vancouver or Battle Ground, WA, please call 360-695-3309 or fill out our contact form. The firm also represents clients from the greater Portland area and throughout Oregon.

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