Theft & Shoplifting Crimes in Washington State
Washington theft is defined as "wrongfully obtaining or exerting unauthorized control over the property or services of another or the value thereof with the intent to deprive of such property or services." RCW 9A.56.020.
It is not uncommon for the term "theft" and "shoplifting" to be used interchangeable. There is actually no crime of "shoplifting."
Rather, shoplifting is a type of theft, it is theft from a store. Since the term "shoplifting" is used so often, we will continue to use it in this web site.
People accused of theft from a store in Washington state can be charged in court with a crime and required to pay a civil penalty to the business they are accused of shoplifting from. Shoplifting cases are treated as seriously as other theft cases and can have long term consequence for people.
The laws governing Washington theft cases can be found in the Revised Code of Washington at RCW 9A.56.
In Washington, theft charges are divided into three levels of seriousness, depending on the value of the item stolen and certain other factors:
Theft 1st Degree (9A.56.030): The theft of property or services with a value over $5,000 or the theft of property of any value when taken from the person of another.
Theft 1st Degree is a Class B Felony punishable by a maximum of 10 years in jail and a $20,000 fine. Actual penalties for a Washington theft crime, however, are determined by the Sentencing Reform Act, RCW 9.94A and the Washington State Sentencing Guidelines.
Theft 2nd Degree (9A.56.040): The theft of property or services with a value over $750 but less than $5,000 or the theft of an access device (a card, code, or other means of account access).
Theft 2nd Degree is a Class C Felony punishable by a maximum of 5 years in jail and a $10,000 fine. Actual penalties for a Washington theft crime, however, are determined by the Sentencing Reform Act, RCW 9.94A and the Washington State Sentencing Guidelines.
Theft 3rd Degree or Simple Theft (9A.56.050 or similar city ordinance): The theft of property or services with a value of less than $750. Theft 3rd Degree or simple theft is the charge filed on most Washington shoplifting cases.
Theft 3rd Degree is a Gross Misdemeanor and punishable by a maximum of 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. RCW 9.92.020.