District of Columbia theft charges involve wrongfully obtaining or using the property of another with intent to deprive the other of a right to the property or to take the property for his or her use. To “wrongfully obtain” simply means that you did not have permission to take the property. According to the statute, theft occurs if the suspect:  deprives the victim of his or her legal right to the property (or to benefit from the property, such as income it generates or would generate if it was sold), or  appropriate (take or make use of the property without legal authority or right) the victim’s property for the offender’s own use; or that of a third person. If you have questions about how the law might apply to your case, you can call a DC theft lawyer for a free consultation. En Español.
Types of Theft in DC
Theft charges can result in situations where someone is accused of:
- Taking or exercising improper control over any type of property
- Making unauthorized use or transferring of an interest in property
- Obtaining property by “trick, false pretense, false token, tampering, or deception”
All of the above are defined in DC Code Section 22–3211.
Theft of Services
In some cases, the stolen “property” can be a service instead of physical property or money. DC law states that if a person receives a service for which he/she has no intention of paying, then the receiver of the service (suspect) may be charged with theft. The simplest example happens when you eat at a restaurant and then leave without paying. Usually, the value of the meal could result in a misdemeanor theft charge. As a DC theft lawyer can tell you, a misdemeanor conviction can still result in a criminal record and jeopardize your employment.
A Theft Lawyer in DC Can Help
The maximum penalty for theft in DC is determined by the amount or value of the property that is alleged to have been stolen. There are two levels of this offense. But if other charges accompany a theft charge, additional sentences can be more severe, depending on the underlying charges.
If a theft involves property or services valued at less than $1,000, it is considered theft in the second degree, a misdemeanor in DC. Anyone convicted of second degree theft is subject to a maximum jail sentence of 180 days, and possibly a fine up to $1,000: [DC Code Section 22–3212 (b)]. Shoplifting is generally charged as second degree theft.
If the value of the stolen property is $1,000 or more, it results in a first degree theft charge – a felony – and is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a maximum $5,000 fine: [DC Code Section 22–3212 (a)].
Other Theft Charges in Washington, DC
Robbery and Armed Robbery
This is theft by, “the use, or threat, of force, violence or with a weapon, with intent to cause the victim to surrender the property or to prevent resistance:” [DC Code Section 22–2801].
Those convicted of robbery in Washington DC can receive a prison sentence of between 2 and 15 years. Those who commit armed robbery (with a firearm of any kind; knife, club, or even brass knuckles) face a prison term of 5 to 30 years upon conviction. If the theft is conducted using an operable firearm, the mandatory minimum time that must be served is five. The robbery must involve some sort of violence (assault, intimidation, threat of bodily harm and/or battery).
Motor Vehicle Theft
This is considered a felony offense. All motor vehicle theft offenses are charged as “Unauthorized use of a Motor Vehicle:” [DC Code Section 22–3215] then specified in detail because the penalties differ depending on the specific circumstances of the case. If you have questions about how the law applies to circumstances in your case, you can consult with a DC theft lawyer.
A person convicted of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle in DC could face up to five years in prison; a fine of up to $12,500: or both. If convicted a third time for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, the punishment can be a fine of between $5,000 and $15,000, and a prison sentence of up to 15 years.
Other serious vehicle theft offenses include:
- Unauthorized use of a vehicle during a crime of violence – up to ten years in prison, a fine of $25,000, or both
- Carjacking – A person convicted of unarmed carjacking in D.C. faces a mandatory-minimum prison term of seven (7) years, and a maximum term of 21 years, a fine of $25,000 to $75,000, or both.
- Armed carjacking – Those convicted of armed carjacking (with a weapon) in D.C. face a mandatory-minimum prison term of fifteen (15) years, and a maximum term of up to 40 years, a fine of $50,000 to $125,000, or both. Both carjacking penalties listed above fall under DC Code Section 22–2803.
Those who knowingly use someone else’s “personal identifying information” without permission to fraudulently acquire, or attempt to acquire, property commit identity theft in the District of Columbia. It is also a crime to “obtain, create, or possess someone else’s personal identifying information to obtain, or attempt to obtain, goods or services, or to give the wrongfully-acquired information to a third person to enable that person to attempt to fraudulently obtain goods or services: [DC Code Section 22–3227.02]. Identity theft also occurs when suspects use someone else’s identifying information to conceal the commission of a crime, avoid prosecution, evade arrest; or fraudulently identify themselves when they are arrested.
Personal identifying information includes a person’s name, date of birth, bank account numbers, family names used for identification security purposes, birth certificate, passport, signature, e-mail passwords, ATM card pin numbers, and more [DC Code Section 22–3227.01].
The penalties for identity theft are the same as traditional theft and are determined by the value of the property stolen with a stolen identity. But the penalties can be amplified by the number of individual counts of identity theft the suspect is convicted of.