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Theft, Robbery, Stolen Property

Theft Attorneys

The crimes dealing with Theft and Robbery can be found under RCW 9A.56 (click for full list).

Within this category is a large number of different crimes that are very fact specific but ultimately apply to scenarios where one person is alleged to have taken property or a service, that doesn't belong to them.

Within this code section, there are a number of words, terms, or phrases that have been given specific legal meaning by the government. These definitions can be found in RCW 9A.56.010. (click for full list of definitions

Convictions for Theft crimes can have a huge negative impact on a person's future, making it more difficult to find a job, obtain certain licensing for different careers, and it can result in no contact orders being issued for people and businesses. It can also result in a criminal and/or civil restitution judgment against you, forcing you to pay back the amount or value stolen, or more.

Besides the normal consequences of a conviction for a criminal charge like jail, fines, and probation, theft crimes come with a moral penalty imposed by society that can impact you for years to come. Mistakes are made, but no one wants to live with a theft conviction on their record.

Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney can be a difficult proposition filled with lots of anxiety and fear. At South Sound Law Group we believe in our experience, abilities, and the services we provide our clients. That is why we offer a free consultation for clients looking for a theft attorney, because it's important that you have the opportunity to speak with us and feel you are making the best decision for you. Our office is located in Tacoma, but we handle criminal cases all over western Washington. Give us a call today at 253-383-3328.


Shoplifting

In Washington state, there is not technically a crime called "shoplifting." Shoplifting is charged as theft, and the degree, or seriousness level, will depend upon the value of the property or services that were wrongfully acquired. For more information on the different levels of Theft crimes, scroll down or call to speak with a shoplifting attorney today.

If you are charged with a theft crime from a store or you received a notice from a store please read below:

It is important to note that many business have their own rules and procedures for handling theft within their stores. These polices and procedures can range from having employees call the police but have no interaction with the person, all the way up to having private security or uniformed police officers in or near the store to detain you.

Often, larger retailers or malls will have private security that act as like police officers. Some security personnel are off-duty police officers. These security guards will often use intimidation, threats, and out right lies to get the person to comply with their demands, which often includes escorting the person to a private office in the back. These security guards or regular store employees will often call the police or threaten to call the police. The main goal for the store employee or security guard is to retrieve the items taken, get you to confess (often in writing), and get you to sign a civil agreement to pay back the value of the items taken or some different arbitrary number (even if you gave it back). The accused is often told (threatened) that if they comply with everything the store employee asks them to do they won't call the police or face criminal charges. This is not usually true.

If you are accused by a retailer, in almost every case, you will receive a letter from the retail business telling you need to pay a specified amount of money or face severe consequences. In general these are not legally enforceable documents but they prey on your fear and guilt to get you to pay for something the store likely kept and will re-sell. Paying the amount they want won't necessarily allow you to escape criminal charges either. ALWAYS TALK TO AN ATTORNEY BEFORE TAKING ANY ACTION.

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Retail Theft with Special Circumstances

Notwithstanding the above statement, the legislature has addressed certain aspects of retail theft, creating an additional crime that can be charged along with the initial theft charge. Hiring a retail theft attorney experienced with how prosecutors will use this ability to charge you with additional crimes is important to protect your future.

RCW 9A.56.360: Retail Theft with Special Circumstances can be proven in a three different ways and all target specific problem issues that retail and commercial business deal with in theft cases. In creating this specific criminal charge and allowing it to be charged in addition to a normal theft charge, the legislature is seeking to dissuade this type of crime, as it severely impacts business and public safety.

A person commits retail theft with special circumstances if he or she commits theft of property from a mercantile establishment with one of the following special circumstances:

  • To facilitate the theft, the person leaves the mercantile establishment through a designated emergency exit;
  • The person was, at the time of the theft, in possession of an item, article, implement, or device designed to overcome security systems including, but not limited to, lined bags or tag removers; or
  • The person committed theft at three or more separate and distinct mercantile establishments within a one hundred eighty-day period.

The seriousness level for Retail Theft with Special Circumstances is directly tied to the seriousness level of a regular theft charge, that comes down to the value of the items or services stolen. Thus, if you could be charged with Theft in the 1st degree, you can also be charged with Retail Theft in the 1st degree, which would put you at greater jeopardy for severe prison time, fines, and restitution.

Retail theft with special circumstances in the first degree is a class B felony.

The maximum sentence for a class B felony conviction is 10 years in a state correctional facility (prison) and/or a fine of $20,000 dollars. 

Retail theft with special circumstances in the second degree is a class C felony.

Retail theft with special circumstances in the third degree is a class C felony

The maximum sentence for a class C felony conviction is 5 years in a state correctional facility (prison) and/or a fine of $10,000 dollars.


Theft Attorney

There are several levels of seriousness, or degrees that you could be charged with depending on the specific facts of your case, the most important being the value of the goods or services you allegedly stole.

Pursuant to RCW 9A.56.020 "Theft" means:

  • To wrongfully obtain or exert 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; or
  • By color or aid of deception to obtain control over the property or services of another or the value thereof, with intent to deprive him or her of such property or services; or
  • To appropriate lost or misdelivered property or services of another, or the value thereof, with intent to deprive him or her of such property or services.

As you can see, this definition of Theft doesn't stray far from the the rules we all learned as kids: Don't take stuff that doesn't belong to you. This section outlines a couple of ways in which a person can complete a "theft" by: taking, deceiving, or keeping property or services that you have no right to.

The next part of the statute explains that a defendant can claim a defense to a theft charge by showing:

  • The property or service was appropriated openly and avowedly under a claim of title made in good faith, even though the claim be untenable; or
  • The property was merchandise pallets that were received by a pallet recycler or repairer in the ordinary course of its business.

The first defense is fairly obvious and very limited in its scope and applicability for most cases.  More often, the second defense is used by defendants when applicable. This defense essentially says, "Yes, I took it, but I thought I had a right to take it."  Obviously, the application of this defense in a criminal charge is bit more complicated and fact specific, but that gives you the general idea of the defense. One of our experienced criminal defense attorneys can explain theft cases in more detail.

Theft in the First Degree

RCW 9A.56.030: Theft in the First Degree is a Class B felony.

The maximum sentence for a class B felony conviction is 10 years in a state correctional facility (prison) and/or a fine of $20,000 dollars. 

A person is guilty of theft in the first degree if he or she commits theft of:

  • Property or services which exceed(s) $5,000 in value other than a firearm as defined in RCW 9.41.010;
  • Property of any value, other than a firearm as defined in RCW 9.41.010 or a motor vehicle, taken from the person of another;
  • A search and rescue dog, as defined in RCW 9.91.175, while the search and rescue dog is on duty; or
  • Commercial metal property, nonferrous metal property, or private metal property, as those terms are defined in RCW 19.290.010, and the costs of the damage to the owner's property exceed five thousand dollars in value.

Theft in the Second Degree

RCW 9A.56.040: Theft in the Second Degree is a Class C felony.

The maximum sentence for a class C felony conviction is 5 years in a state correctional facility (prison) and/or a fine of $10,000 dollars.

A person is guilty of theft in the second degree if he or she commits theft of:

  • Property or services which exceed(s) $750 in value but does not exceed $5,000 in value, other than a firearm as defined in RCW 9.41.010 or a motor vehicle;
  • A public record, writing, or instrument kept, filed, or deposited according to law with or in the keeping of any public office or public servant;
  • Commercial metal property, nonferrous metal property, or private metal property, as those terms are defined in RCW 19.290.010, and the costs of the damage to the owner's property exceed seven hundred fifty dollars but does not exceed five thousand dollars in value; or
  • An access device.

Theft in the Third Degree

RCW 9A.56.050: Theft in the Third Degree is a Gross Misdemeanor

The maximum sentence for a Gross Misdemeanor is 364 days in a county correctional facility (jail) and/or a $5,000 fine.

A person is guilty of theft in the third degree if he or she commits theft of property or services which:

  • does not exceed $750 in value, or
  • includes ten or more merchandise pallets, or ten or more beverage crates, or a combination of ten or more merchandise pallets and beverage crates.

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Robbery Attorney

RCW 9A.56.190

Robbery is a more serious version of a theft crime that often involves force or violence or the threat of force or violence to take or retain personal property of another.

A person commits robbery when he or she unlawfully takes personal property from the person of another or in his or her presence against his or her will by the use or threatened use of immediate force, violence, or fear of injury to that person or his or her property or the person or property of anyone. Such force or fear must be used to obtain or retain possession of the property, or to prevent or overcome resistance to the taking; in either of which cases the degree of force is immaterial. Such taking constitutes robbery whenever it appears that, although the taking was fully completed without the knowledge of the person from whom taken, such knowledge was prevented by the use of force or fear.

Robbery in the First Degree

RCW 9A.56.200: Robbery in the First Degree is a Class A felony.

The maximum sentence for a class A felony conviction is life imprisonment in a state correctional facility (prison) and/or a fine of $50,000 dollars. 

A person is guilty of robbery in the first degree if:

  • In the commission of a robbery or of immediate flight therefrom, he or she:
    • Is armed with a deadly weapon; or
    • Displays what appears to be a firearm or other deadly weapon; or
    • Inflicts bodily injury; or
  • He or she commits a robbery within and against a financial institution as defined in RCW 7.88.010 or 35.38.060.

Robbery in the first degree is the most serious of the robbery charges because it involves deadly weapons, often guns, and/or someone is seriously injured during the robbery. Obviously, the legislature is very concerned about these types of violent crimes as they are the most likely to end up with a victim that is seriously injured or killed, and it weighs heavily on the public's mind when it comes to their safety. We all have the image in our mind of the armed robber jumping out of the dark alley to steal your purse and prosecutors and judges take these cases extremely serious.

Robbery in the Second Degree

RCW 9A.56.210: Robbery in the Second Degree is a Class B felony.

The maximum sentence for a class B felony conviction is 10 years in a state correctional facility (prison) and/or a fine of $20,000 dollars. 

A person is guilty of robbery in the second degree if he or she commits robbery.

Obviously, this seriousness level is a basic robbery without the use of deadly weapons and no bodily injury is inflicted on anyone. Nonetheless, these cases are still treated with a high level of seriousness, as robberies can quickly scare the public, ruin a neighborhood, and destroy the success of businesses in the surrounding area.


Possession of Stolen Property Attorney

RCW 9A.56.140

"Possessing stolen property" means knowingly to receive, retain, possess, conceal, or dispose of stolen property knowing that it has been stolen and to withhold or appropriate the same to the use of any person other than the true owner or person entitled thereto.

The fact that the person who stole the property has not been convicted, apprehended, or identified is not a defense to a charge of possessing stolen property.

When a person has in his or her possession, or under his or her control, stolen access devices issued in the names of two or more persons, or ten or more stolen merchandise pallets, or ten or more stolen beverage crates, or a combination of ten or more stolen merchandise pallets and beverage crates, as defined under RCW 9A.56.010, he or she is presumed to know that they are stolen. This presumption is rebuttable by evidence raising a reasonable inference that the possession of such stolen access devices, merchandise pallets, or beverage crates was without knowledge that they were stolen.

In any prosecution for possessing stolen property, it is a sufficient defense that the property was merchandise pallets that were received by a pallet recycler or repairer in the ordinary course of its business. When facing a stolen property criminal charge, you should always speak with an experience criminal defense attorney before making any decisions or making any statements.

Possessing Stolen Property in the First Degree

RCW 9A.56.150: Possessing Stolen Property in the First Degree is a Class B felony.

The maximum sentence for a class B felony conviction is 10 years in a state correctional facility (prison) and/or a fine of $20,000 dollars. 

A person is guilty of possessing stolen property in the first degree if he or she:

  • Possesses stolen property which exceeds $5,000 in value.
  • Other than a firearm as defined in RCW 9.41.010
  • Or a motor vehicle

Possessing Stolen Property in the Second Degree

RCW 9A.56.160: Possessing Stolen Property in the Second Degree is a Class C felony.

The maximum sentence for a class C felony conviction is 5 years in a state correctional facility (prison) and/or a fine of $10,000 dollars.

A person is guilty of possessing stolen property in the second degree if he or she

  • Possesses stolen property which exceeds $750 in value but does not exceed $5,000 in value
  • Other than a firearm as defined in RCW 9.41.010
  • Or a motor vehicle;

or

  • He or she possesses a stolen public record, writing or instrument kept, filed, or deposited according to law;

or

  • He or she possesses a stolen access device.

Possessing Stolen Property in the Third Degree

RCW 9A.56.170: Possessing Stolen Property in the Third Degree is a Gross Misdemeanor

The maximum sentence for a Gross Misdemeanor is 364 days in a county correctional facility (jail) and/or a $5,000 fine.

A person is guilty of possessing stolen property in the third degree if he or she possesses

  • stolen property which does not exceed $750 in value, or
  • ten or more stolen merchandise pallets, or ten or more stolen beverage crates, or a combination of ten or more stolen merchandise pallets and beverage crates.

The total list of crimes that fall under RCW 9A.56 are more than listed on this site. If you are charged with a crime under RCW 9A.56 that is not listed above, we may still able to represent you. We have experienced and qualified attorneys familiar with representing you on these types of criminal charges. To see a full list of crimes under RCW 9A.56 click here

If you need more clarification, have more questions, or wish to schedule a free consultation to speak with one of our skilled criminal defense attorneys, please call us at 253-383-3328 or send us your info on our contact us page, located here.

Contact Us

We are located next to the building that holds the Pierce County District Court, Pierce County Superior Court, and the Tacoma Municipal Court. We have free client parking in the alley located between South G St. and Yakima Ave. If you have any trouble finding our location or have a question about scheduling an appointment give us a call at 253-383-3328.

705 South 9th St
Ste 204

Tacoma, WA 98405
253-383-3328
Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri: 08:30am - 05:00pm

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