D.C. Criminal Offenses
What constitutes a criminal offense in the District is spelled out in the D.C. Code. Generally, a criminal offense will require both an act (or an omission to act) and a mental state – or mens rea. In other words, it is not enough that the government needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed some act that is prohibited by law. The government must also prove that the defendant had the required criminal intent.
Crimes in D.C. are divided into misdemeanors and felonies depending on the maximum penalty associated with the offense. Felonies have a maximum penalty of greater than a year of incarceration. Offenses with maximum penalties equal to or less than a year are misdemeanors. Defendants charged with an offense punishable by a maximum period of incarceration of 6 months or greater are eligible for a jury trial. All other cases will be tried before a judge, with a judge serving as both finder of fact and finder of law.
Because of D.C.’s unique status as a federal district, there are two different prosecuting bodies in the city. The Office of the Attorney General handles traffic matters, juvenile offenses, and violations of the D.C. municipal code. All other offenses are handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which is a federal entity.
Below is additional information on common criminal offenses in D.C.
OFFENSES TO THE PERSON
Assault on a Police Officer
Assault with a Dangerous Weapon
Assault with Significant Bodily Injury (Felony Assault)
Cruelty to Children
OFFENSES TO PROPERTY
Drug Distribution/Possession with Intent to Deliver
Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
Chemical Test Refusals
Driving Under the Influence/Operating While Impaired
Ignition Interlock Devices
Leaving After Colliding/Hit-and-Run
Operating After Suspension/Revocation
Standardized Field Sobriety Tests
Carrying a Dangerous Weapon
Carrying a Pistol Without a License
Felon in Possession of Firearm
Possession of Prohibited Weapon
Possession of Unregistered Ammunition
Possession of Unregistered Firearm
Unlawful Discharge of a Firearm
For a list of the maximum penalties for criminal offenses in D.C., please click here.