Theft 3 – Shoplifting

Theft in the 3rd Degree, or Shoplifting, in Washington State is defined as the theft of up to $750. Under Washington State law, “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. RCW 9A.56.020

Shoplifting generally occurs in a commercial setting where a Loss Prevention Officer for a retail company believes they observe someone stealing their merchandise. The Loss Prevention Officer then stops the suspect and escorts them to a back office where they perform a search of the suspect in an attempt to recover their lost merchandise.

They often require the suspect to sign a statement and a promise to never return to the location again. In some cases the police are called and respond immediately, however, often times the police never actually respond, and the suspect is released with nothing more than a suggestion that the courts will be in contact with them in the near future.

In almost all cases, the Courts do send the suspect a summons to appear for an arraignment, where they will be officially charged with Theft in the 3rd Degree.


Theft in the 3rd Degree is a Gross Misdemeanor which is punishable by up to 364 days in jail and up to a $5,000 fine. A conviction for any theft crime can have very serious implications when applying for employment, education and a change in immigration status.

How Can a Lawyer Help?

There are many ways to fight a Theft 3 Shoplifting charge in Washington State. From fighting the facts at trial to strategizing creative alternatives to achieve a dismissal, it is of the utmost importance to find an attorney who has experience fighting theft crimes.