If you’re facing petty theft charges in Washington state, you are far from alone. In 2019, 23,803 people were arrested in Washington for this serious offense. That means you are among thousands of others in the state with this question on their minds:
Can petty theft charges be dropped?
This article is meant to answer that question. In some cases, the answer is yes, but to increase your chances, one of the best steps you can take is to contact a criminal defense lawyer. The shoplifting laws in Washington state are complex and often require a legal eye to find a way through them. Read on to learn what you need to know.
Understanding Petty Theft and Shoplifting Laws in Washington State
To start to understand your charge, you first need to know its technical name. In Washington state, petty theft is actually called theft in the third degree. You can be charged with theft 3 in Washington state if you are accused of stealing goods or services worth less than $750, according to the Revised Code of Washington, Section 9A.56.060. If the value of the items you are accused of stealing is higher than $750, you would be charged with a more serious theft crime.
Examples of Petty Theft
The shoplifting laws in Washington state are fairly broad. That means a large number of alleged actions could leave you charged with this offense. Here are some examples of petty theft in Washington:
- Walking out of a retail store with an item that you haven’t paid for
- Taking a pallet or beverage crate off of the back of a truck during unloading
- Leaving a bar or restaurant without paying
- Swapping price tags on two items so that you pay less for the item you buy
- Taking goods from your place of work
- Borrowing an item from someone you know and intentionally not returning it
As you can see, while this crime mostly involves shoplifting, it can include other actions. Any theft of an item under $750 in value would apply. Furthermore, there is the issue of the word “services” in the written law. That suggests that you can be charged with this crime for allegedly stealing intangible items like taking public transit without paying or failing to pay a plumber.
Penalties for Petty Theft in Washington State
One of the most common questions we hear after explaining the penalties for petty theft is: “Can petty theft charges be dropped?” It’s understandable — the penalties can be quite harsh, and many want to know whether there is a way to avoid them or make them less severe.
Petty theft is a gross misdemeanor in Washington state. Don’t be fooled by the word “misdemeanor” — this crime is still serious. In fact, a gross misdemeanor is the most serious type of misdemeanor. It’s one step away from a felony.
If you are convicted of theft 3 in Washington state, you could face the following penalties:
- Up to 364 days in county jail
- A fine of up to $5,000
That’s why it’s so important to talk to a criminal defense lawyer about fighting your charge.
Can Petty Theft Charges Be Dropped? Your Step-by-Step Guide
In some cases, petty theft charges can be dropped or at least reduced to a less serious charge. This isn’t always possible, but to raise your chances, take the following steps.
1. Don’t Talk to Police Without Representation
Remember this: You do not have to talk to the police. And it’s a good idea to not talk without your lawyer present. Why? Because the police are trying to get you to admit to the crime or make a mistake that will help the prosecutor convict you.
Police and prosecutors do this all the time, so they are good at it. That’s why it’s best to have a lawyer with you before you say anything.
2. Call a Lawyer
If you’re arrested, you have a right to call a lawyer. Your attorney will immediately begin acting on your behalf and advising you on what to say and when. Having a lawyer on your side can give you the best possible chance of beating your petty theft charge.
3. Consider the Evidence
Once you have called a lawyer, it’s time to start thinking about your defense. Your attorney will help you with this, but you can get a head start by thinking about evidence that could help your defense. Were you somewhere else when the alleged theft occurred? Do you have a receipt that shows that you actually did pay for what you’re accused of stealing? Are the accusations against you false? Information like this can point your lawyer in the right direction as they start building your defense.
Facing Petty Theft Charges? Call Will & Will
Can petty theft charges be dropped? If you work with an experienced lawyer, there’s a chance. And when you’re facing jail time and severe fines, it’s probably a chance you will want to take.
At Will & Will, we are here to give you that chance. As a trusted husband-and-wife criminal defense team, we have decades of experience helping people in your situation. If you would like us to help you, too, all you have to do is get in touch. Call us at 206-209-5585 or contact us online.