Theft is the wrongful assumption or possession of another individual’s property. The theft is often done by taking and carrying away the property with the intent to deprive the individual of their property permanently. In Washington state, one type of theft is called shoplifting. The level of punishment will depend on the severity of the specific theft charges.
For instance, stealing a low-value item from a retail store will result in lesser charges and penalties than stealing someone’s vehicle. When someone uses weapons or force while perpetrating theft, this will also be classified as a more severe crime.
If you are facing theft charges, it is essential to understand the potential penalties and any defenses you may have.
How Does Washington State Define Shoplifting?
Broadly, shoplifting is defined as stealing goods from a retailer.
Does It Matter The Value of the Goods in a Shoplifting Charge?
Yes, the value of the goods stolen in a shoplifting charge does matter. The state bases the severity of the shoplifting charge on the value of the goods stolen.
Is Shoplifting the Same as Robbery?
No. Robbery involves taking property from another individual or retailer, but with the use of force, the threat of force, or violence. In contrast, shoplifting only involves taking a retailer’s property or goods without force.
What Is a Misdemeanor?
In Washington, a misdemeanor is defined as a type of criminal offense. A convicted person may receive a small criminal fine, up to twelve months of imprisonment (i.e., one-year maximum sentence), or both as punishment.
Misdemeanor charges are usually more severe than receiving a citation or infraction but are less serious than being charged with a felony offense. A wide range of crimes may be classified as misdemeanors.
Is Shoplifting a Felony or Misdemeanor in Washington State?
In Washington state, a shoplifting charge is normally a misdemeanor charge. It can be a simple misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor. But the harshness of the charge depends on the value of the item that was shoplifted.
What Is the Difference Between a Felony vs. Misdemeanor?
The primary difference between a felony and a misdemeanor is that felonies tend to be more serious offenses, which often involve an element of violence. The other main difference between the two is the form of punishment that a convicted defendant can receive.
Since felony charges are more severe than misdemeanors, they frequently result in a prison sentence that lasts longer than a year and may include paying a greater amount in criminal fines.
In general, crimes classified as felonies usually require evidence of a higher mental state of intent (i.e., mens rea) than the level necessary to commit a misdemeanor. Felony crimes also tend to cause greater harm to their victims, including injuring an individual, society overall, or more severe property damage.
One final discrepancy is that although both will appear on the defendant’s criminal record, misdemeanor charges are somewhat easier to have expunged or removed than felony charges.
Are There Different Types of Misdemeanors?
As previously mentioned, Washington has a classification system that identifies whether the crime falls under a misdemeanor offense and what the resulting sentence should be for committing a particular type of misdemeanor crime.
The state also categorizes crimes by the amount of damage or injury caused by the crime. For example, Class A misdemeanors are usually reserved for the more serious crimes that warrant greater punishment but still fall below those crimes and punishments that would qualify it to be a felony.
In contrast, Class D misdemeanors involve the most minor types of misdemeanor offenses.
As a general example, a shoplifting incident that turns into an assault that results in bodily injury will most likely be classified as a Class A misdemeanor offense. If the injury leads to severe damage or death, the crime can be elevated from a misdemeanor offense to a felony charge (e.g., homicide).
Additionally, the misdemeanor shoplifting charge can also become a felony charge involving an aggravating factor, such as if the shoplifting crime was committed using a deadly weapon, if the defendant was a repeat offender, or if the defendant was a repeat offender or assaulted a child or minor.
Is a Petty Offense the Same as a Misdemeanor?
Infractions (or citations) are often described as petty offenses that result in criminal fines but usually no jail time. They are generally considered less serious offenses than both misdemeanor and felony crimes.
It is important to note that not all petty offenses are infractions.
A perfect example of this is the crime of misdemeanor larceny. Larceny is similar to shoplifting. Misdemeanor larceny is theft of property valued below a specific dollar amount (usually $1,000 or less).
Despite its name, however, “petty larceny” is not a petty offense, and therefore a person convicted of it can be subject to more than an infraction. Being convicted of a petty offense can lead to having a criminal record, paying heavier fines than those for infractions, and possibly serving a jail sentence for up to one year.
Can Shoplifting Ever Be a Felony Charge?
Yes. The state of Washington could charge a defendant with felony shoplifting if the defendant shoplifted an item valued at more than $5,000.
What Is the Punishment for Shoplifting in Washington State?
The penalties for shoplifting will depend on several factors like how severe the crime is, your criminal history, whether a weapon was involved, and property value. Penalties will be higher for felonies than for misdemeanors.
Additionally, repeat offenders will often receive harsher penalties and less sentencing leniency than if it were their first offense. Nonetheless, remember that you can have a first offense felony theft charge if the property value is high enough or the type of property involved falls under felony classification in your state.
The specific criminal sentence depends on facts surrounding the shoplifting. For instance, third-degree misdemeanor shoplifting is punishable by up to a year in county jail or a fine of $5,000. A third-degree shoplifting conviction is when a defendant shoplifted goods valued at less than $750.
A second-degree shoplifting conviction is a punishment for stealing goods valued at more than $750 but less than $5,000. It’s a class C felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of $10,000. Some other punishments for Class C felonies include monetary fines, parole, probation, restitution, or community service. A Class C felony conviction can also lead to a loss of certain rights and benefits, such as restrictions on voting, serving on a jury, owning firearms, or securing a job or housing.
First-degree shoplifting is considered a class B felony when the defendant shoplifted an item valued at over $5,000. It is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $20,000.
What Are Some Defenses to Class C Shoplifting Felonies?
If the defendant is charged with shoplifting as a Class C felony, they may be able to raise several defenses, such as:
- Lack of proof or evidence;
- Mistaken identity;
- Lack of intent;
- Alibi; or
- Mitigating factors.
Should I Discuss My Case with a Criminal Lawyer?
A shoplifting charge has serious consequences. To discover the best defense to use in your case, talk to a Washington criminal lawyer and start putting an end to your shoplifting charges today.