Theft I/Theft II in D.C.

Theft in Washington, D.C. is a general offense that encompasses what used to be a series of separate offenses affecting property interests.  It includes, for example, what used to be called larceny, embezzlement, theft by deception, and larceny by trick.

Elements of the Offense

The offense in its present form includes three basic elements.  The first element is that the property in question belongs to another person.

The second element is that the perpetrator “wrongfully obtains or uses” the property.  This can be through the actual physical taking of the property.  It can also be through the more passive “controlling,” “unauthorized use” or “transfer” of the property or through deception.

The third and final element addresses the state of mind – or criminal intent – of the person who wrongfully obtains or uses the property.  Specifically, in order to meet this element of the offense, the person needs to intend to either:  (1) deprive the rightful owner of the right or benefit of the property, or (2) appropriate the property to his or her own use or to the use of a third party.

In addition to tangible or intangible property, the theft of services is also covered under the general definition of theft.  Jumping the turnstile at the metro station or refusing to pay a cab fare or restaurant bill would all be examples of this type of theft. D.C. Criminal Code 22-3211.


Theft in the first degree (Theft I) is when the total value of the property taken is $1000 or more.  The penalty for a first degree theft conviction is a maximum fine of $5,000 and imprisonment for no more than 10 years.

If the total value of the property is less than $1000, it is a theft in the second degree.  The penalty for Theft II is a maximum fine of $1,000 and imprisonment for no more than 180 days.  D.C. Criminal Code 22-3212.

First-time offenders charged with Theft II might be eligible for some type of “diversion” program. With more information on such programs to be found here, the typical diversion program for Theft II is a deferred prosecution agreement in which the offender performs 32 hours of community service over a four-month period in exchange for the government’s agreement to dismiss the charges.

Working exclusively on criminal defense in D.C., Jamison Koehler has extensive experience in securing the best possible outcomes for people in this type of case. He can be reached at 202-549-2374 or

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