Theft I and Theft II in Washington, D.C.

Theft in Washington, D.C. is defined as the unauthorized taking of property from another with the intent to permanently deprive that person of it.   Put more simply, theft is stealing.  The theft can be of property, both tangible and intangible.  It can also be of services.  

What is theft in Washington, D.C.?  

The prosecution must prove three elements — each beyond a reasonable doubt — in order to secure a conviction for theft in Washington, D.C.  First, the government must prove that the property in question belongs to another person:  You cannot be convicted of stealing your own property.  

Second, the prosecution must prove that the defendant has “wrongfully obtained or used” the property.  This can be through the actual physical taking of the property.  It can also be either through deception or through the more passive “controlling,” “unauthorized use” or “transfer” of the property.  

Finally, the government must prove that the defendant was acting with criminal intent at the time he/she obtained or used the property.  A person cannot be convicted, for example, either for mistakenly taking property or for intentionally taking property under a mistaken understanding of permission or ownership.  

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/Uber/Lyft fare would all be examples of this type of theft. D.C. Criminal Code 22-3211.

What are the maximum penalties for theft in Washington, D.C.?

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.

Does D.C. offer diversion programs for first-time offenders?

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.

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

Your first concern upon being arrested for theft in D.C. should be to have the charges against you dismissed.  Only when the case has been disposed of can you take action to either seal or expunge the resulting criminal record.  

There are two ways to seal an arrest record for Theft I or Theft II.  The first way is to file a motion to seal on the grounds of actual innocence.  You can file this motion immediately.  The second way is to wait for a period of time (typically 2 to 4 years) and file a motion alleging that it would be in the interests of justice to remove this stain from your record.  Further information on sealing or expunging your record can be found here.  

Will I need a lawyer if I am charged with theft in D.C.?

Although you have an absolute right to represent yourself in a criminal proceeding, D.C. Superior Court judges will actively discourage you from doing so.  This is because of both the complexity and legal consequences of a criminal case.  

Working exclusively on criminal defense in D.C. and offering affordable rates, 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

How will my theft case in D.C. be affected by the Covid-19 pandemic?

D.C. Superior Court is currently closed for most types of cases.  Arraignments and status hearings for misdemeanor cases have been postponed beyond November 9, 2020.  More pressing matters, particularly for defendants who are being held in custody pending the outcome of their cases, are being handled remotely (through teleconference or phone) or partially remotely. 

Last update:  August 25, 2020

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  1. Pingback: Why am I charged with Theft II on a shoplifting arrest? | Koehler Law