If you are caught stealing something with a value less than $750, you will likely be charged with Theft in the Third Degree, a gross misdemeanor. Considering there are many different types of theft in Washington state, it can be confusing and scary to figure out what to do if you are caught. Luckily, retaining an attorney can help you navigate this situation as easily as possible and get your life back on track.
What Could Happen If You're Caught Shoplifting in WA?
Depending on the volume of calls in your area, the police may or may not show up if you are caught shoplifting. Do NOT assume you will not be charged with a crime if the police do not come. It may take some time, but you will likely receive a hearing notice in the mail. We suggest to carefully read your hearing notice in its entirety and take note of your upcoming court date. We also recommend contacting an attorney as soon as possible so they can regularly check for the charge to be filed and notify you ahead of time.
Additionally, if you are caught stealing from a business, you could be banned from that property for a certain amount of time, typically one year. In other words, you might be served a Notice of Trespass. The trespass notice will be served when officers are called to the premises and the person has signed it, with police as a witness. It will not be sent in the mail or served later. This means you could be charged with the crime of Criminal Trespass if caught returning to the premises. Again, it is crucial for your case to read these notices fully and abide by the parameters outlined to avoid being charged with an additional crime.
The business can also send you a Civil Demand, which often incorporates an intimidating letter from the law firm representing the business in question. The letter will state a repayment amount, repayment date, and the threat of a lawsuit if you do not comply. It is not a good idea to pay the civil demand yourself. Instead, we recommend paying the civil demand through your attorney, because they will have a much better chance of securing a civil release that can be used in an attempt to get your case dismissed in court, if you get charged.
What Should You Do If You're Charged With Shoplifting?
Being accused of theft can be intimidating, but it is not a hopeless situation. If you take the right steps now, jail time and convictions can often be avoided. If you need help, please give our office a call.
We can be reached at (425) 224-7075. We will listen to what happened, identify a way forward and do whatever is possible to get you the result you need and deserve. The Law Offices of Lance Fryrear have more than 20 years of experience defending this type of situation throughout Washington State. Give us a call and we will be there for you.