by Lewis & Laws
According to a recent article in the Seattle Times, Seattle merchants have seen an uptick in shoplifting. Further, some merchants say the shoplifters are becoming more brazen, even “stealing armloads of inventory to sell on the street.” It appears the shoplifted items are higher ticket items as well, such as earbuds, phone chargers, electric toothbrushes, and disposable razors. It has even been theorized that a significant amount of the current shoplifting is being done by those who used to target the Bartell at Third and Union (the store closed in November 2019, after what a former employee claimed was $1 million in theft-related expenses in 2019 alone).
Unfortunately, it's not just downtown Seattle feeling the pain. The owner of Greenwood Hardware, west of Green Lake, had to lock up anything worth more than $30 and install surveillance cameras.
For many store owners, shoplifting has become a way of life— simply the cost of doing business. Despite the problems Seattle store owners are experiencing with shoplifting, shoplifting incidents across the city actually dropped 11 percent between 2018 and 2019.
Where to Turn if You’ve Been Arrested for Shoplifting in Seattle
Shoplifting is a specific type of theft offense involving the removal of merchandise from a store without paying for the merchandise. Shoplifting is larceny in the state of Washington, and penalties can be fairly steep—not only fines but potentially jail time as well.
It is important that you not attempt to face shoplifting charges on your own. An experienced Seattle criminal defense attorney will ensure your rights and your future are properly protected following shoplifting charges.
How is Shoplifting Proven in Seattle?
There are two specific elements that must be proven to find you guilty of shoplifting. The first is that you must have willingly and knowingly taken the merchandise into your possession, with no intent to pay for the items. Or, you must have deceitfully and intentionally concealed the items, with no intent to pay for the merchandise. It is important to remember that changing price tags on an item is also shoplifting. Of course, there are times when a person simply forgets to pay for an item; perhaps the item was hidden under another item and did not get scanned. If there was no intentional, willful intent to deprive the store of the cost of the item, then the state may not be able to prove shoplifting charges.
Penalties for Shoplifting in Seattle
The penalties for shoplifting can be severe and are dependent on the value of the item taken and the type of property (certain types of properties are protected under the law). Being convicted of shoplifting can potentially alter your life in ways you would not choose. First-degree theft is a Class B felony, charged when the value of the shoplifted items is more than $5,000. If convicted of first-degree theft, you could face up to ten years in prison and up to $20,000 in fines. You could also face civil charges and be required to pay the owner of the company where you shoplifted.
Second-degree theft in Seattle is charged when the value of the items you took is between $750 and $5,000. Second-degree theft is a Class C felony. If you are convicted of second-degree theft, you could face fines as large as $10,000 and up to five years in prison.
If the items you shoplifted were worth $750 or less, you would face the gross misdemeanor charge of third-degree theft. If convicted of third-degree theft, you could face up to $5,000 in fines and up to a year in jail.
As you might imagine, spending any time in jail can cause you to lose your job, and potentially cause you to be unable to get another job. If you are convicted of a felony theft offense, you could face the consequences for many years to come.
Getting Legal Help from a Seattle Criminal Defense Attorney
Seattle prosecutors can be extremely harsh when dealing with shoplifting charges, often attempting to increase the severity of the charges, regardless of the circumstances. Once you have a Seattle criminal defense attorney by your side, he or she will counter such tactics, working hard to have the charges dismissed or reduced.
Don’t take chances with your future; contact a Seattle criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The experienced lawyers at Lewis & Laws, PLLC, have successfully defended clients in Seattle, Bellevue, and Kirkland. Contact us today at 206.209.0608 or fill out our online contact form.