Seattle Theft Attorney(206) 895-6728
Being stopped by security, questioned by police, or even arrested for a theft-related crime in Washington is undoubtedly a scary experience. Many accused of stealing have often never been in trouble with the law before and frequently have a lot of questions.
Experiencing being stopped by security, questioned by the police, or even arrested for a theft-related crime in Seattle can be a frightening ordeal. Many individuals accused of theft have no prior criminal record and often have numerous inquiries.
The penalties and potential repercussions of a theft charge will largely be determined by the circumstances and the value of the stolen property. However, the first step towards resolving the matter is to seek the assistance of a criminal defense lawyer with a wealth of experience handling various theft offenses. With a proven track record of successfully achieving favorable outcomes for clients, theft attorney Morgan Fletcher Benfield is ready to discuss your case, present your options, and fight to safeguard your interests. Contact The Law Offices of Morgan Fletcher Benfield, PLLC today to schedule a confidential and free consultation.
Washington Theft Law Defined – Ask a Seattle Theft Attorney
Under state law (RCW 9A.56.020), theft in Washington refers to the wrongful acquisition or unauthorized control over another person’s property or services, or the value thereof, with the intent to deprive. Essentially, this pertains to actions involving the intentional taking or acquisition of another person’s property or services, which the person no longer has access to them.
While this law covers a range of theft-related scenarios, confusion may arise from using terms like theft, shoplifting, and fraud interchangeably. However, as with several other states, theft offenses in Washington are primarily classified based on the value of the stolen property.
Degrees of Theft & Penalties
Theft offenses in Washington are categorized into misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanor theft charges are filed in District or Municipal Court, while felony theft charges are filed in Superior Court.
Theft in the Third Degree
(RCW § 9A.56.050)
Theft in the Third Degree (RCW § 9A.56.050) is the most common and least severe theft offense in Washington. It typically involves shoplifting and is defined as taking property or services of another with a value less than $750. Third-degree theft is a gross misdemeanor, with a maximum penalty of a $5,000 fine and 364 days in jail.
Theft in the Second Degree
Theft in the Second Degree (9A.56.040) refers to the theft of property or services valued between $750 and $5,000. This constitutes a class C felony, with a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Theft in the First Degree
Theft in the First Degree (9A.56.030) is the most serious theft offense in Washington. It applies when the property or value taken exceeds $5,000, or when the property of any value is taken directly from another person. This constitutes a class B felony, with penalties of up to 10 years of imprisonment and a maximum fine of $10,000.
Other Consequences and Problems Down the Road
To further complicate certain theft cases, particularly those involving shoplifting, individuals may face civil liability in addition to criminal penalties. This means that the person responsible for the theft may be required to compensate the business or store for any losses incurred, provided that the value of the property taken is less than $2,850. This compensation can include paying an additional penalty between $100 and $650, as well as covering the legal fees and court costs incurred by the property owner or business. If the offender is a minor, their parent or guardian may also be held liable for up to $1,425 in damages.
Aside from the immediate consequences of a theft conviction such as jail time, probation, fines, and civil liability, there are other long-term implications to consider. Having a theft conviction on your record can negatively impact your reputation, potentially leading to difficulties finding employment or securing loans or housing. Additionally, for non-U.S. citizens, a theft conviction can result in deportation.
If you’re facing theft charges, contact The Law Offices of Morgan Fletcher Benfield, PLLC today to schedule a free and confidential consultation.
Theft Court Process
The court process for theft charges can be overwhelming, especially for those with little to no experience with Washington’s criminal justice system. However, with the guidance of a skilled theft attorney, you can navigate each stage with confidence and aim for a favorable outcome.
At the start, you will be informed of your charges and given the chance to consult with a criminal defense attorney. The first court appearance is the arraignment, where you will learn about your charges, bail or bond requirements, and enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.
After the arraignment, pre-trial hearings will be scheduled to resolve any pending issues. Your attorney will file motions to address any concerns in your case, such as improperly collected evidence, violation of your rights, or insufficient evidence to support the charge.
At the readiness hearing, both the defense and prosecution will assess their readiness level for a trial and work towards a resolution such as a dismissal, reduction, or plea negotiation.
If the case proceeds to trial, the prosecutor will present their case, and your attorney will craft a defense strategy to refute the claims. A judge or jury will then determine your guilt or innocence.
If convicted, the judge will hand down the sentence based on Washington State sentencing guidelines, a prosecutor’s recommendation, and a pre-sentencing report prepared by your attorney. You may also have the opportunity to speak on your own behalf with the guidance of your attorney.
Possible Outcomes & the Importance of a Defense – Contact a Seattle Theft Lawyer
The details, evidence, and circumstances of each Washington theft case will differ, but with the assistance of a competent theft lawyer, you can assess the prosecutor’s case and determine the appropriate course of action.
It is advisable to discuss with your lawyer the possible outcomes, such as:
- Dismissing the charges due to a lack of evidence
- Reducing the offense to a more appropriate charge
- Entering into a deferred sentence or plea agreement for a lesser penalty
- Obtaining a not guilty verdict at trial
Building a strong defense requires thorough investigation and meticulous attention to detail. Theft charges can arise from desperation, impulsive behavior, or a momentary lapse in judgment.
At The Law Offices of Morgan Fletcher Benfield, PLLC, we understand that an error in judgment should not impact your future. We are committed to challenging the evidence, identifying any police errors, and achieving a result that enables you to move on from this incident.
If you face any theft charges in Seattle or nearby areas, call attorney Morgan Fletcher Benfield today to learn how we can assist you.