Understanding Shoplifting Charges
Under Washington law, shoplifting is charged under the State's theft statutes, and the severity of the charge depends on the value of the items allegedly stolen. Unlike most other theft charges, shoplifting usually occurs in public, and can be very embarrassing for the person apprehended. It is important to be represented by an aggressive criminal defense lawyer who will stand with you throughout the court process. Steve Graham was rated one of Spokane's top five criminal lawyers by the magazine
Spokane - Couer d'Alene Living.
A Shoplifting Lawyer Protects Your Privacy
Will your name appear in the newspaper? Will your family or your employer be contacted? Will the fact that you have been charged appear when someone runs a background check? These sorts of questions need to be answered by your attorney. It is also important to have a creative and thorough attorney who can spot potential weaknesses and technical defenses in your shoplifting court case.
A Shoplifting Charge can be a Misdemeanor or a Felony
Most shoplifting charges involve property taken from a store with a value of less than $750 dollars. This is charged as Theft Third Degree, which is a gross misdemeanor, and is punishable by up to 365 days in jail and a fine of up to $5,000. Occasionally, the merchandise is valued at over $750 and the shoplifting charge will be a felony. "Value" means the fair market value of the property at the time and in the approximate location of the alleged criminal act. Usually prosecutors will attempt to add or "aggregate" several in expensive items together to try to meet the felony threshold of $750 dollars value. However shoplifting charges from different locations and from different victims cannot be added together to create felony charges. Policies vary in Spokane and the various surrounding communities.
Attorney for Juvenile Shoplifting
If a juvenile is arrested or charged with shoplifting, he or she will usually be charged as a juvenile. Sometimes the minor will be eligible for diversion programs to keep the case out of court. However, it is still in the child's best interest to consult with a lawyer before making any decisions. Sometimes juveniles and their parents are surprised to find out that the juvenile record is not as private as they had hoped. A juvenile court record for shoplifting can affect the future in terms of college, employment, and military service. The parents of juveniles can often be held civilly liable for a penalty under RCW 4.24.230 up to the amount of $1425.00.
Shoplifting Charges When a Person Did Not Leave the Store
Lawyers are often asked about charges for shoplifting when a person is stopped by store security before he or she left the store. Often times, store security will stop a suspected shoplifter when he or she first conceals the merchandise in their bag or pockets. Sometimes security will wait until the individual has walked past the register or the "last possible point of payment" in the store. Occasionally, a defendant will be detected by a store sensor when he or she attempts to exit the mall or retailer. A store will often produce a videotape of the incident in question for the prosecutor.
Lawyer for Enhanced Charges Related to Shoplifting
If a person is accused of a shoplifting incident where a scuffle ensues with store security or employees, a prosecutor will often attempt to elevate the charge to robbery. These allegations need to be taken extremely seriously by defendants. Similarly, prosecutors will attempt to charge store shoplifting charges as burglary if the suspect has previously been told not to enter the place of business. Other serious charges related to shoplifting include charges of Organized Retail Theft, and Theft with Intent to Resell.
The Job of a Shoplifting Lawyer
It is the job of a lawyer to defend the shoplifting charge to the best of his ability. Oftentimes there are special circumstances that need to be brought to the prosecutor's attention. Shoplifting is rarely about greed, rather it is often a sign of chronic depression, recent loss, or other psychological disruptions in a person's life. With adolescents, shoplifting is often association with thrill seeking, but it is also possible for a child to act under duress or threats of others. A momentary lapse of judgment does not have to ruin a person's life, career, or family relationships. Shoplifting charges can be defended. Washington law does allow for arrangements with stores whereby charges can be dismissed under a "misdemeanor compromise agreement" or "civil compromise." Sometimes a case is resolved by continuing the case for one year and dismissing the case if the individual seeks counseling and stays out of trouble.
Would you like to discuss your case with me? I am available for free consultations on criminal cases. You won't get a sales pitch, or any judgments made about what you have done or not done. You will simply receive my honest opinion and I will listen and answer your questions. Call (509) 252-9167. If I am out, I can usually get back to you within a few hours.
Visit Steve Graham's blog post: Shoplifting in Spokane County: The Crime and the Punishment.
Areas where Mr. Graham practices: Spokane County, WA; Stevens County; Okanogan County; Colville WA; Ferry County; Republic WA; Lincoln County; Davenport, WA; Cheney, WA; Grant County; Moses Lake; Ephrata WA; Whitman County, Pullman and Colfax, WA, Pend Oreille County, Adams County; Ritzville WA; Chelan County, Wenatchee; Nespelem; Colville Tribal Court.