Theft means taking someone’s property, with the intent to deprive them of that property. Washington law provides three degrees of Theft, depending on the value of the property involved. First and Second Degree Theft, both felonies, means the value of the property is greater than $750.00.
Third Degree Theft is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $5000.00 fine. As a Lynnwood theft attorney, many of the cases I handle are misdemeanor theft allegations, otherwise known as shoplifting. This is due to the large number of retail outlets in Lynnwood, mostly in and around the Alderwood Mall where our office is located.
The majority of these cases are prosecuted in Lynnwood Municipal Court, located at 19321 44th Avenue West in Lynnwood, in the same building as the Lynnwood Police Department and city jail. Typically, a suspected shoplifter is detained by store security and arrested by the Lynnwood Police Department. Next, the accused is either transported to jail or, more commonly, released with a summons to appear in court.
The first order of business is to evaluate every Lynnwood theft case on its merits. If you have a defense, we will find it. If, based upon our evaluation, there is a likelihood of conviction, we can start to look at other options.
It is often possible to avoid jail time on Lynnwood shoplifting cases, particularly in the case of first offenders. Even so, a theft conviction carries a stigma that can follow people forever. This is due to the prevalence of online background checks and the fact that theft – even misdemeanor shoplifting – is considered a “crime of dishonesty.” This means that when potential employers, colleges, or volunteer organizations find a theft conviction on a background check, they can automatically disqualify people, considering it a character issue. For this reason, old theft convictions are among the leading convictions we attempt to vacate, or clear from a person’s criminal history.
Often, after a complete review of your case and negotiation with the prosecutor, we have been successful in negotiating an end to your case that does not result in conviction. Depending on the case, options can include: (1) a Compromise of Misdemeanor; or, (2) a Stipulated Order of Continuance.
Washington law allows for civil Compromise of Misdemeanors. This law requires that we contact the alleged victim, and agree to compensate them for the value of any loss. Once this is accomplished we can present an order to the judge requesting discharge and dismissal of the case. The judge must agree to the disposition, and the prosecutor may object, but if your case is carefully negotiated and the facts are appropriate, this may be an option. This option should only be attempted through a qualified Lynnwood theft attorney. If you have been charged, do not approach an alleged victim or store owner yourself. Seek legal advice.
Another option, the Stipulated Order of Continuance. If the defense and prosecution agree, this can result in dismissal of your case, or reduction to a less damaging charge, after a period of good behavior and conditions are met (pay restitution, attend a theft awareness class). Again, if the facts are appropriate and the agreement is carefully negotiated, this is sometimes a good option.
These potential options are not available in every case, and are presented only as potential options. If you are charged with theft in Lynnwood, or elsewhere in Snohomish County, contact an experienced theft attorney as soon as possible to evaluate your case and explore your options.