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As per the Revised Code of Washington section 9A.56.020, a theft occurs when a person wrongfully obtains or exerts “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.” A theft might also be by deception in order to gain control of the property or services of another person coupled with the intent to deprive that person of their property or services. The appropriation of “lost or misdelivered” property with the intent to deprive is also a theft.

Categories of Felony Theft

Like any other state, theft in the State of Washington can be either a misdemeanor or felony. Felony theft is divided into two categories. Those are theft in the second degree and theft in the first degree.

Theft in the Second Degree
Should the value of the goods or services stolen be in excess of $750 and not more than $5,000, it’s classified as theft in the second degree. That crime is a class C felony, and it’s punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000.

Theft in the First Degree
If the value of the goods or services stolen is in excess of $5,000, or if property of any value is taken from the person of somebody else, it’s classified as theft in the first degree and punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine not to exceed $20,000.

Defenses

Washington’s theft statute provides that it is a sufficient defense if the subject “property or service was appropriated openly and avowedly under a claim of title made in good faith,” regardless of the fact that the claim may be untenable. Equal ownership, consent to take the property and mistake are other viable defenses.

The Civil Remedy

Should a theft occur by shoplifting, certain civil remedies are also triggered. A person can be held civilly liable for the retail value of the goods or services that were stolen in an amount not to exceed $2,850, plus civil costs and legal fees along with an additional penalty between $100 and $650. In the case of a minor, the retail value of the goods or services must not exceed $1,425. Parents can be held liable for that sum and other penalties.

Contact a Spokane Criminal Defense Lawyer

Theft is a crime of moral turpitude, and a conviction can stay with a person for life. That conviction can affect employment, educational and housing opportunities. Don’t give the police a statement or confession. If you’ve been arrested on a theft charge that arose in or around Spokane, invoke your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent along with your right to counsel. Call a Spokane criminal defense lawyer from our offices right away and arrange for a free consultation and case review. We’ll listen to you carefully, answer your questions and advise you of your legal options. You don’t want a conviction for theft in the first or second degree following you around for the rest of your life if it doesn’t have to.

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