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Washington State shoplifting laws and penalties

On Behalf of | Jul 17, 2022 | Criminal Defense |

When an individual is charged with shoplifting in Washington State, that crime could be a misdemeanor or felony depending on the value of what’s taken and other factors. This means a simple mischievous act of taking something off the shelf and slipping it in your pocket will not only lead to fines and community service but also a jail term in state prison.

Understanding shoplifting in Washington State

Shoplifting is considered a theft crime in Washington and is defined as taking possession of merchandise offered for sale without paying the full purchase price. Additionally, an individual can be charged with shoplifting if they alter or remove labels or tags to change the price of an item, under-ring items at the point of sale, or return stolen items for a refund.

The value of the merchandise plays a role in determining whether an individual will be charged with a misdemeanor or felony offense. In Washington, if the value of the merchandise is less than $750, it will be charged as a misdemeanor. In contrast, if it exceeds $750, it will be charged as a felony. However, other factors could result in a felony charge, such as if the individual has prior shoplifting convictions or if they used force against an employee while committing the act.

Penalties for shoplifting in Washington State

The penalties an individual will face if convicted of shoplifting in Washington state depend on whether it is charged as a misdemeanor or felony offense. If charged as a misdemeanor, an individual could face up to 90 days in jail and a fine of $500. If it is a felony, an individual could serve up to five years in prison and pay a fine of $5000. Additionally, if the value of the merchandise is less than $250, the court may order the individual to perform community service in lieu of paying a fine.

Possible defenses

There are a few possible defenses to shoplifting charges that you or your criminal defense attorney could use to avoid a conviction or at least minimize the consequences. For example, you could argue you had no intention of permanently depriving the owner of their product, or your identity was mistaken.

Someone can bring a shoplifting lawsuit even after five years from the date the crime was committed. The statute of limitation for theft crimes ranges from 2-6 years, depending on the charge.