Criminal Defense Lawyer Serving Puget Sound
A Theft conviction is considered a “crime of dishonesty” and a crime involving moral turpitude. A conviction can not only land a person in jail, but it will be a red flag for many employers. Companies will terminate or deny employment if an employee’s duties require them to conduct financial transactions or handle sensitive materials. A conviction can also be a stain on your reputation and ruin your good name. At the Law Office of Michael P. Sheehy, we understand people make mistakes and a lapse in judgment does not define who you are as a person. We are here to help advise you every step of the way and will advocate for the best possible outcome.
Theft Definition and Penalties
A theft can be committed multiple ways. The most common allegation is when a person wrongfully obtains property or services from another person. A Theft charge is classified as a gross misdemeanor or a felony depending on the value of the property.
- Theft First Degree – Class B felony, Value exceeds five thousand dollars
- Maximum penalty, 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine
- Theft Second Degree – Class C felony, Value between $750 – $5000
- Maximum penalty, 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine
- Theft Third Degree – Gross Misdemeanor, Value less than $750
- Maximum penalty, One year in jail and a $5,000 fine
- Eg. Shoplifting at Costco when value is under $750
Jail Time, Sentencing, and Enhanced Penalties
Most retail shoplifting cases (Costco, Alderwood Mall) are filed as misdemeanor theft charges if the value of the property is under $750. A Judge can impose up to a year in jail upon conviction. The length of jail, if any, depends on a person’s criminal history, the jurisdiction of the offense, and the facts of the case. An attorney can advocate for alternatives to jail for first time shoplifting or theft third degree offenses.
However, a conviction will be on a person’s criminal record and may impact future employment. An experienced advocate will request a dismissal through one of several legal processes. At the Law Office of Michael P. Sheehy, we have successfully advocated many dismissals on misdemeanor cases through a statute called “compromising a misdemeanor” and by using other defense strategies. Contact our office to determine if you are eligible.
Judges have broad discretion in their decisions but they must follow a standard range when imposing a sentence on a felony offense. A first time offender convicted for Theft in the Second Degree would receive a sentence between zero and 60 days. A Theft in the First Degree would be zero to 90 days. Most prosecuting attorneys request a mid-range sentence. It’s important to understand that the sentencing range changes if a person has prior felony conviction.
Additionally, a Court may impose an exceptional sentence outside the standard range if the prosecutor identifies aggravating circumstances. Below are a few aggravating circumstances that could justify an enhanced penalty.
- Alleged Victim was Vulnerable
- A Weapon was Used (possible Robbery)
- Involved Multiple Victims or Incidents
- Abused a Position of Trust (accountant, treasurer, etc)
- Excessive Monetary Loss – Caused Hardship
The Court has the authority to impose the maximum sentence if any of the above aggravating circumstances are alleged in the criminal complaint. It’s important to understand what’s at stake and if your case has “aggravating” or “mitigating” facts.
It is critical to understand the nature of the charges, the sentencing range, the possibility of enhanced penalties, and what if any other charges can be added to the complaint. You deserve to have a thorough understanding of your options and not be forced to blindly follow an attorney’s advice.
How to Get a Fair Outcome and Avoid a “Railroading”
Every allegation is different and every case has issues that need to be developed from a defense perspective. An experienced defense attorney will have a strategy on each case. What is the strategy on your case? You should know the “game plan” and how you can help defend against the charge. Open communication is critical and your input is extremely valuable. In fact, more often than not, the accused knows more about the facts of the case than any other witness. It’s important for a defense attorney to highlight those evidentiary and mitigating issues for the prosecuting attorney in order to get the best outcome.
Our Clients also increase their chance of receiving a favorable disposition by being proactive and working directly with Attorney Sheehy and his legal assistant, Wendy. We will advise you on the steps to take- whether it’s getting a drug evaluation, providing monetary compensating for the loss, taking a Theft awareness classes, securing character letters, or simply providing your particular life circumstances.
A person’s options will depend on the facts of the case, the criminal jurisdiction, and if he / she was proactive. The outcomes of a theft case vary but include the following:
- Dismissal – ask if this is possible
- Amend to Misdemeanor or lesser Felony
- Acceptance into Diversion (TAP)
- Acceptance into Drug Court
- Prison or Jail Time
- Stipulated Order of Continuance
- Pre-Trial Diversion Agreement
- First Time Offender Waiver (FTOW)
- Compromise of a Misdemeanor
Attorney Michael Sheehy will instruct you on how to be proactive and review your available options.
Defenses to a Theft?
Not every person charged with a criminal offense is guilty. A defendant has a right to a jury trial and does not have to plead guilty. Do not feel pressured into a plea if you have a valid defense. There are many defenses to a Theft charge and you should consult with an attorney to assert your rights in Court. A few defenses include:
- Disagreement over Property Ownership
- No Intent to Permanently Deprive (borrowed)
- Alleged Victim is Untruthful
- Value is de minimus
- Coerced or Acted against Will
- Did Not Take the Property
- Forgot Property was on Person
Other Crimes of “Dishonesty”?
A Theft allegation is one of several different “crimes of dishonesty” that can be charged. The same basic principles above apply to all crimes of dishonesty but the criminal penalties and legal defenses are different. The following charges are considered a crime of moral turpitude:
- Vehicle Prowl
- Retail Theft
- Unlawful Issuance of Bank Check
- Taking a Motor Vehicle Without Permission
- Possession of Stolen Property
- Residential Burglary
- Trafficking Stolen Property
- Common offense that are filed differently: petty larceny, grand theft auto, carjacking, employee theft
Michael Sheehy has vast experience representing people charged with the above offenses. It’s important to know that you have viable options. A conviction can have permanent consequences. A person’s reputation could be marred and future employment opportunities limited. We are here to help and Attorney Sheehy will explain your options in easy to understand terms. The Law Office of Michael P. Sheehy, PLLC has helped clients in Lynnwood, Everett, Bothell, Marysville, Edmonds, and Mill Creek and all over Snohomish and King County.
Why Our Office Is Different for a Theft Case
Attorney Michael P. Sheehy limits the number of retained cases in order to provide a dedicated, strategic defense. Attorney Sheehy and his legal assistant meet regularly to discuss the merits of each client’s case and they are the only legal professionals working on it. You will know your “legal team” and never feel like a number. Critical information won’t be lost or passed onto other attorneys. Negotiations are time-sensitive and your attorney should know your case inside and out.
Mr. Sheehy reviews the evidence to determine the strength of the State’s case and will set it for trial or attempt to resolve the case in a favorable manner. Charges can be dismissed if a person is eligible for the diversion program, enters a drug program, petitions for a compromise of a misdemeanor, receives a deferred sentence, or enters into a stipulated order of continuance. We let our clients know if they are eligible for one of these alternatives and if they will be given a chance to start over.
Defense lawyer Sheehy is fully dedicated to criminal defense and personally handles each and every case. For him, providing quality and caring representation is not about how many cases you have but how much effort you put in to each case in order to get the best result possible. With an equally dedicated and compassionate support staff, clients facing a theft charge have come to know and trust our firm.
Contact Michael Sheehy, a Lynnwood theft crimes attorney, and arrange a free case evaluation today!