Petty theft, often considered a minor crime compared to its more severe counterparts, can have significant implications for both victims and perpetrators. In this article, Eastcoastlaws.com will delve into the world of petty theft in Washington State, exploring its prevalence, the legal consequences, and the broader societal implications of this seemingly minor transgression.
Petty Theft and Shoplifting Laws in Washington State
You must first know your charge’s technical name in order to begin understanding it. Petty theft is actually referred to as theft in the third degree in the state of Washington. According to the Revised Code of Washington, Section 9A.56.060, if you are accused of stealing goods or services valued less than $750 in Washington State, you may be prosecuted for theft 3. You would be charged with a more serious theft felony if the objects you are accused of taking have a worth greater than $750.
Examples of Petty Theft
The shoplifting laws in Washington state are quite extensive, encompassing a wide range of behaviors that may result in charges of this offense. Here are several instances of petty theft in Washington:
- Exiting a retail store with an unpaid item.
- Removing a pallet or beverage crate from the rear of a truck during unloading.
- Departing a bar or restaurant without settling the bill.
- Exchanging price tags between two items to pay less for the one you purchase.
- Appropriating items from your workplace.
- Borrowing an item from an acquaintance and deliberately failing to return it.
As evident from these examples, this offense primarily pertains to shoplifting but can extend to other actions as well. It encompasses any theft of an item valued at less than $750. Moreover, the inclusion of the term “services” in the legal text implies that you could face charges for this crime when allegedly stealing intangible items, such as evading payment for public transportation or neglecting to compensate a plumber for their services.
Penalties for Petty Theft in Washington State
After discussing the consequences of petty theft, a common question often arises: “Is it possible to have petty theft charges dismissed?” This question is entirely reasonable, given the potentially severe penalties associated with this offense, and many individuals seek ways to mitigate or avoid them.
In Washington state, petty theft is classified as a gross misdemeanor. It’s crucial not to underestimate the term “misdemeanor” because this offense remains a significant legal matter. In fact, a gross misdemeanor represents the most serious category within the misdemeanor classification and is just one step below a felony.
If you find yourself convicted of Theft 3 in Washington state, you could be subject to the following penalties:
- A maximum sentence of up to 364 days in county jail.
- A fine that can reach up to $5,000.
For this reason, consulting with a criminal defense attorney to explore avenues for contesting your charge is of utmost importance.
Civil Penalties for Shoplifting
Beyond the criminal repercussions, an individual who engages in shoplifting or leaves a restaurant or hotel without paying, as well as the parent or legal guardian of a minor involved in such acts, may face civil liability towards the store or business proprietor. This liability encompasses:
- Reimbursement for the retail worth of the stolen merchandise or services, not exceeding $2,850.
- An additional penalty amounting to no less than $100 but not exceeding $650.
- Reasonable attorney fees and court costs incurred by the owner or seller.
It’s essential to note that under Washington law when a parent or legal guardian assumes liability for a juvenile shoplifter, the maximum recoverable retail value of stolen merchandise is capped at $1,425.
(Washington Revised Code Sections 4.24.230 and 9A.56.360, as of 2022.)
What Happens After A Theft Arrest In Washington State?
After a theft arrest, things may seem overwhelming and unclear. Although you might feel the need to defend yourself as fast and truthfully as you can, doing so could have negative effects on your case in the future. When you are arrested, use your right to silence, cooperate with the authorities, and continuously request an attorney.
Police officials may detain you at the station following an arrest so they can question you and take your fingerprints, among other things. The police cannot normally detain a person for more than 24 hours. They may release you with or without bail. Following your release, you will be required to appear in court for your arraignment, during which the judge will read your charges to you and ask you to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. Your attorney will provide you with advice on what steps to take next.
If you are deemed a flight risk following the arraignment, the court may either deny your request for bail and send you back to custody, or permit you to depart without posting bond. Your lawyer will start collaborating with you to decide on your best legal options and plan out your next actions. You might negotiate with the prosecution, talk about plea deals, or start gathering evidence for your defense before the trial, depending on the specifics of your case.
How To Get Petty Theft Charges Dropped In Washington State
Petty theft accusations may occasionally be withdrawn or at the very least downgraded to a less serious offense. Although it’s not always doable, try these measures to improve your chances.
Don’t Talk to Police Without Representation
Keep in mind that you are not required to speak with the police. It’s also a good idea to refrain from speaking if your attorney isn’t there. Why? Since they want you to confess to the crime or make a mistake that would aid the prosecution in convicting you.
Because they do this frequently, police and prosecutors are skilled at it. Therefore, it is best to have legal counsel present before making any statements.
Consult with an Attorney
Seek legal counsel immediately after being charged with petty theft. An experienced attorney can evaluate your case, explain your rights, and provide you with legal advice.
Consider the Evidence
Once you have contacted a lawyer, you should consider your defense. Although your lawyer will assist you with this, you can start by considering the kinds of evidence that might support your case. When the alleged theft allegedly took place, where were you? Do you possess a receipt proving that you paid for the allegedly stolen goods? Are the charges brought against you true? When constructing your defense, information like this might help your attorney get started with the correct approach.
Negotiate with the Prosecutor
Your attorney may contact the prosecutor to discuss the possibility of having the charges dropped or reduced. They can present the evidence you’ve gathered and argue on your behalf.