Shoplifting in D.C.

Typically charged as theft II in Washington, D.C., shoplifting is the stealing/larceny of merchandise from a store or business. 

D.C. shoplifting attorney Jamison Koehler (202-549-2372, jkoehler@koehlerlaw.net) has extensive experience securing the best possible outcome for clients charged with this offense. 

Below is everything you need to know if you have been arrested or charged with shoplifting in the District:

What is shoplifting in D.C.?
What is the difference between shoplifting and theft?
What is the maximum penalty for shoplifting in D.C.?
Will first-time offenders be offered diversion programs?
Will an arrest for shoplifting remain on my record?
Can I expunge or seal a criminal record for shoplifting in D.C.?
Will I need a lawyer?
Will I go to jail?
How will my shoplifting case be affected by the Covid-19 pandemic?

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is shoplifting in D.C.?

Shoplifting is the intentional taking or concealing of a merchant’s property without paying for it.  The taking/concealing cannot be accidental or inadvertent.  

You do not need to pass all points of purchase before being accused of the offense.  Provided that the prosecution can prove an intent to steal, removing or altering the price tag, transferring the property from one container to another, or simply concealing the item can result in a conviction. 

What is the difference between shoplifting and theft?

Shoplifting is a specific form of theft.  As such, it is included under the definition of theft as “the unauthorized taking of property from another with the intent to permanently deprive that person of it.”  Shoplifting in D.C. is usually charged as theft II. 

What is the maximum penalty for shoplifting in D.C.?

A conviction for shoplifting is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine of $500.  That said, most people who are convicted of this offense will be sentenced to a period of probation. 

Will first-time offenders be offered diversion programs?

Usually, yes.  Although the decision to offer special dispensation for people who have never been arrested before is up to the prosecution, the government has an interest in resolving as many of the minor cases as possible without a trial.  The diversion program typically offered for people accused of shoplifting is called a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA).  According to this agreement, the defendant performs community service (typically 48 hours) and pays restitution for missing or damaged merchandize.  In exchange the government agrees to dismiss the charges upon completion of the agreement.  There is no admission of guilt, and defendant is not convicted of the offense. 

Will an arrest for shoplifting remain on my record?

Every arrest results in a criminal record where it will remain until you file a motion (see below) asking the court to remove it.  The arrest will be visible on D.C.’s public website.  It will also appear on the FBI’s database of criminal records. 

Can I expunge or seal a criminal record for shoplifting in D.C.?

There are two basic ways to expunge or seal a criminal record for shoplifting in the District.  You can file a motion on the grounds of actual innocence.  This motion can be filed immediately after the case has been dismissed under D.C. Code § 16-802.  Alternatively, you can wait two years to file an “in the interests of justice” motion under D.C. Code § 13-803.   

Will I need a lawyer?

Although you have the absolute right to represent yourself in a criminal proceeding, D.C. Superior Court judges will make it very difficult for you to do this.  This is because of the complexity and potential consequences of a criminal case, no matter how minor the offense.  If you cannot afford a lawyer, the court will appoint one to represent you. 

Will I go to jail?

It is extremely unlikely that anyone but the most habitual offender will receive jail time.  Most people convicted of this offense will be sentenced to probation, either supervised or unsupervised. 

How will my shoplifting case be affected by the Covid-19 pandemic?

D.C. Superior is currently closed for most purposes because of the pandemic.  Citation arraignments for cases in which the suspect was released after arrest and status hearing for “lock-up” cases are being scheduled for mid-2021. 

Last update:  December 13, 2020