There's no distinction between shoplifting and theft in Washington, unlike in some other states. Therefore, if you take something from a store in Washington, you'll be charged with theft and the specific charges and penalties will depend on the property value of the merchandise involved.
For example, two friends steal items at a Seattle jewelry boutique. Friend A takes a watch with the retail value of $2,000 and faces the felony charge of theft in the second degree, but Friend B pockets a $500 bracelet and is charged with third-degree theft, which is a misdemeanor.
Theft in the Third Degree
Most of the shoplifting cases fall under theft in the third degree. An individual can be charged with this crime if they commit theft of property which:
- Doesn't exceed $750 in value; or
- Includes 10 or more merchandise pallets, or 10 or more beverage crates, or a combination of 10 or more merchandise pallets and beverage crates.
Explanation of Washington Shoplifting Laws
Reading a statute in its entirety can be informative, but grasping legal concepts is sometimes easier when the words are converted into "plain English." This chart provides you with a rundown of the law related to shoplifting in Washington.
Washington Revised Code:
Possible Penalties and Sentencing
Property value of $750 or less: Theft in the third degree; gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail and/or a fine up to $5,000.
Property value more than $750, but less than $5,000: Theft in the second degree; class C felony, punishable by incarceration of up to 5 years and/or a fine up to $10,000.
Property value exceeds $5,000: Theft in the first degree; class B felony, punishable by incarceration of up to 10 years and/or a fine up to $20,000.
Note: The actual penalties will depend on the specific facts of the case and are determined by the Sentencing Reform Act and state guidelines.
Individuals who commit shoplifting in Washington may be civilly liable to the store or the merchant and may have to pay damages including: the retail value of the stolen merchandise, reasonable court costs, and attorney fees.
- Lack of intent
- Mistake of fact
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
Washington Shoplifting Laws: Related Resources
Discuss Shoplifting with a Washington Attorney
Although shoplifting isn't considered a major offense compared to other crimes, you shouldn't take the situation lightly if you're facing shoplifting allegations. Because theft charges concern character issues, any conviction can affect employment or housing opportunities. Help protect your future by talking to a Washington criminal defense attorney who can mount a solid defense on your behalf.