In the State of Washington, there are essentially three ways to be charged with the crime of Theft. The difference in the three charges is strictly determined by the value of the item stolen.
Theft in the Third Degree: This is a gross misdemeanor and punishable by up to a $5,000 fine and up to 364 days in jail. Stolen items or services are valued at less than $750.
Theft in the Second Degree: This is a Class C felony and punishable by up to a $10,000 fine and up to 5 years in jail. Stolen items or services exceed $750 but do not exceed $5,000.
Theft in the First Degree: This is a Class B felony and punishable by up to a $20,000 fine and up to 10 years in jail. Stolen items or services exceed $5,000.
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Theft charges can have serious negative impacts on a person’s personal and / or work life.
Often employers require employees self-disclose arrests for such charges. This can lead to discipline, loss of security clearance or termination. Future employment opportunities will most certainly be impacted. If you are in a profession where it is required to hold a professional license (real estate agent, pharmacist, teacher, doctor etc…) you may not be able to renew your license. Certain entire industries will also deem you as unemployable. You will not work in lending, banking, or any position in where money exchanges hands. If you are a contractor or laborer and required to go in clients homes, that may no longer be allowed. If you are heading off to college, or thinking of going back to school, your ability to obtain student loans will be impacted. If you are thinking of purchasing a home, the mortgage lending process will be turned upside down. These types of charges can cause a serious up-hill battle for most people. For these reasons, Theft charges must be addressed with the highest importance.
How Do Misdemeanor Theft Charges Resolve?
Common ways that we avoid misdemeanor theft convictions for our clients are through two different instruments, 1. a Pre-Trial Diversion Agreement (or PDA), or 2. a Compromise of Misdemeanor. Typically, both will achieve the end result of dismissal of the charge.
Both of these methods of resolution are higlhy effective. We use each, when appropriate, to mitigate serious long term negative impacts on our clients. More than 95% of our clients charged with Theft will have thier case dismissed by either a Compromise or a PDA.
Unless a person has an extensive criminal history or the facts of the immediate case are disturbing, the majority of the misdemeanor Theft charges can be resolved through one of the mechanisms mentioned above. Often times, the Courts will require a drug and alcohol assessment if they deem there to be an underlying chemical dependency issue. Those proactive treatment requirements are often worked into the deal and their satisfactory completion can be a requirement for the case to be ultimately dismissed.
How Do Felony Theft Charges Resolve?
Common ways that we avoid felony theft convictions for our clients are through the “Therapeutic Courts” in Kitsap County Superior Court. The Therapeutic Courts have expanded and now are able to accept a large number of participants. “Therapeutic Courts” is a term used like an umbrella to cover many different rehabilitative Court programs.
Typically these diversionary programs will result in the felony theft being dismissed. The programs that are within the Therapeutic Court program are: Drug Court, THRIVE Court, Felony Diversion, Veteran’s Court and Behavioral Health Court. If a person is accepted into one of these programs, and they complete the program, the pending theft charge will be dismissed.
These Superior Court Therapeutic Court programs are harder to enter than their counterparts in District Court. The process for application and acceptance is rigorous, often requiring some in-person “viewings” of each Court program. However, we have had great success having clients accepted into the programs, and ultimately having the felony charges dismissed.
Additional Or More Serious Charges
What seems like a simple Theft charge can quickly turn into a more serious charge or multiple charges. While Theft is charged as First, Second, or Third Degree, it is possible to be charged with additional crimes that relate to theft. For example, if you stole a watch out of jewelry case, you might be charged with Theft in the Third Degree. However, if you pulled the watch off of your roommate’s hand and won’t give it back (perhaps you feel justified because he hasn’t paid rent), you would have committed the crime of Robbery, a felony. In that case, you committed theft of the watch but you also committed assault by physically removing the watch and that amounts to Robbery. There are other potential charges and special allegations in this scenario but, for simplicity, the point is that the details matter.
Crimes such as Robbery, Burglary, Motor Vehicle Theft, Possession of Stolen Property, Theft of a Firearm, Theft of Livestock, and Extortion are all theft crimes but are charged under different RCWs. When consulting with a criminal defense attorney, be sure to tell your attorney all of the details surrounding the theft so he or she is adequately prepared to defend your unique case. It is critical to know whether you have been properly charged based on the circumstances.
Finally, if the Prosecutor learns of additional facts that include assault or that a weapon was on your person during the commission of the crime, your Theft in the Third Degree charge can become a felony or you can be facing multiple charges. Furthermore, if you contact the person you took the item from (including store clerks), you could be charged with Witness Tampering. Clearly, if you are facing a charge or are under investigation for Theft, it is important that you seek the advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney. In these types of cases, early involvement by an attorney can make a big difference in the outcome of the case.
Let Us Help You Avoid A Conviction For Theft
The Attorneys at the Witt Law Group have been representing people accused of Theft for over a decade. We have offices in Bremerton, Gig Harbor and Poulsbo for your convenience. We can be reached 24/7 at (360) 792-1000 (Bremerton), (253) 312-3838 (Gig Harbor) or text us at (360) 710-0027.
If you found this article on Theft interesting, CLICK HERE to read more similar articles, such as relating to Shoplifting, on our Blog.
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