What is criminal larceny?
At common law, criminal larceny involved the taking of the personal property of somebody else without violence or legal authority. Larceny constituted a theft. Washington’s legislature merged criminal larceny with theft at RCW 9A.56.100 where it states that “offenses defined as larcenies outside of this title shall be treated as thefts as provided in this title.”
RCW 9A.56.020 now defines theft as wrongfully obtaining or exerting “unauthorized control over the property or services of another or the value thereof, with intent to deprive him or her of such property or services.” That would include theft by deception. Under the same section, it also constitutes theft if a person appropriates “lost or misdelivered property or services of another, or the value thereof, with intent to deprive him or her of such property or services.”
Classes of theft
Washington classifies thefts according to the value of the stolen property or the type of property like a gun or car. Those classes are:
- Third degree theft involving property that has a value of $750 or less. It’s classified as a gross misdemeanor that’s punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine not to exceed $5,000.
- Second degree theft is a class C felony involving property valued at more than $750 but less than $5,000. Firearms and motor vehicles are excluded. It’s punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000.
- First degree theft involves property valued in excess of $5,000 or property of any value if taken directly from another person, excluding firearms or motor vehicles. It’s a class B felony punishable by not less than 10 years in prison and a fine not to exceed $20,000.
Shoplifting in Spokane
Unlike some states, Washington doesn’t have a specific statute dealing with shoplifting or retail theft. Shoplifting falls under the state’s theft statute. There are also attendant civil remedies that have bite to them. If you or your minor child are convicted of shoplifting, you might also be required to repay the owner of the business:
- The retail value of the stolen merchandise up to $2,850
- Up to $1,425 for the parents or legal guardian of a minor
- An additional penalty between $100 and $650
- Court costs and reasonable attorney fees in pursuing the civil remedy
Defenses to a theft charge
Several different defense strategies exist to a theft charge. All of them are very fact specific to the particular case and allegations. Some of those involve:
You owned the property
You separated from your wife, and no divorce was filed yet, but you took a vehicle that was titled in both of your names. You don’t commit a crime when you take your own property. The divorce courts can rule on who is going to be awarded that car, but you can’t be prosecuted in the criminal courts for taking it.
An alleged theft might be an honest mistake that people make every day. Maybe you took a backpack home with you that was identical to your backpack. Unfortunately, the police were waiting for you to get home. You made a mistake on the physical characteristics and weight of the backpack.
A laptop computer belonging to one person in a college dormitory might be found in another person’s room. That second person might have had a good faith belief that permission was given to use the laptop.
No proximity to the crime
If you were far away at the time that the theft occurred, you couldn’t have committed the crime. You might produce travel receipts showing where you were when the crime was committed.
You were duped by law enforcement into committing a crime that you didn’t have a predisposition to commit, all for purposes of arresting and prosecuting you.
The negotiated plea
After a thorough evaluation of your case, you might be advised that it wouldn’t be wise to persist in a plea of not guilty. Disposition of the case through a negotiated plea might have a much less painful result than a conviction through a trial, especially if a plea is entered to a lesser offense with sentencing alternatives that don’t involve a conviction. Your attorney will go over your options with you.
Contact a Spokane Theft Attorney Today
A theft conviction operates as a conviction for dishonesty and deceit. No matter how qualified you are for a certain job, a potential employer may have a no hiring policy on job candidates with such a conviction. Educational and housing opportunities might also be affected. Deportation is again a reality for immigrants too. If you or somebody close to you is charged with theft in any degree, don’t give a statement or confession to police. Invoke and protect your rights. Contact us right away for a free consultation.