Is shoplifting a felony crime?
Is shoplifting a felony crime?
Most shoplifting cases are not referred to the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office - they are sent to city attorney's offices as misdemeanor crimes - but the answer is case specific.
An example is this video on TikTok from the Lowe’s store on Aurora Avenue North in Seattle. This is an example of the types of cases that do not come to us, but are instead referred to the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, which is separate from our office.
However, other cases involving the person in that video were referred to our office and we charged him with three felony burglary counts.
Shoplifting cases such as this alleged video incident – and the majority of thefts from grocery stores and drug stores and similar businesses – go to the Seattle City Attorney’s Office.
The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is in communication with the Seattle City Attorney’s Office multiple times per week to address prolific criminal behavior. Also, each burglary case and vehicle prowl/theft case referred to the KCPAO is screened by our High Priority Repeat Offender group.
You’ll hear on the video the Lowe’s manager saying the value of the items was $120. That value makes indicates a gross misdemeanor crime. Even if the value were five times that amount, this alleged crime it would still be a gross misdemeanor offense as defined by law.
For the case to be referred to us and charged as a felony, the law requires additional elements.
· Someone breaking into and looting a business, for example, can be sent to us and charged as Burglary in the Second Degree. In 2021, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office filed 424 cases involving one or more counts of Burglary in the Second Degree. (Not all the cases involved this scenario – there are a wide variety of Burglary in the Second Degree cases referred to our office by police.) First-degree burglary cases are counted separately.
· Shoplifting with force or threat of force can be referred to us and charged as a felony robbery case as Robbery in the Second Degree. In 2021, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office filed 168 cases involving one or more counts of Robbery in the Second Degree. (Similar to the note above, that number can include other scenarios. Someone punching another person and stealing their phone would be classified as Robbery in the Second Degree, for example.) There were additional first-degree robbery cases.
· Coordinated thefts of liquor from grocery stores, for example, can be referred to us and charged as Organized Retail Theft. In 2021, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office filed 36 cases involving one or more counts of Organized Retail Theft based on the referrals from police.
This post was updated on April 29, 2022 and is not expected to be updated. To see updates in the felony burglary case mentioned in the third paragraph, go to the King County Script Portal and search for case number 22-1-00325-8.
Leesa Manion (she/her)
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