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District of Columbia Theft Laws

Theft (also called larceny) is an example of one of the most basic property crimes. Although each jurisdiction has its own unique definition for the crime, theft generally involves taking another person's property with no intention of returning it or using another's services without paying for them.

In Washington, D.C., theft occurs when an individual "wrongfully obtains or uses the property of another." The term "wrongfully obtains or uses" means:

  • Taking or exercising control over property;
  • Making an unauthorized use or transfer of interest in or possession of property; or
  • Obtaining property by trick, false pretense, tampering, or deception

An Explanation of District of Columbia Theft Laws

Due to the complexity of statutory language, it's helpful to refer to a plain language guide to a statute when it's time to unpack the law. The chart below provides an easy-to-follow explanation of the District of Columbia's theft laws.


District of Columbia Division IV. Title 22:


Elements of the Crime


Theft of Property

In addition to wrongfully taking the property, the actor must intend to:

  • Deprive the other person of a right to the property or a benefit of the property; or
  • Use the property for their own use or for the use of a third party.

Theft of Services

It's presumed that the actor committed theft of services with the following:

  • Proof that the actor obtained services that they knew or had reason to believe were available to them only for compensation; and
  • That the actor exited the place where the services were obtained with the knowledge that no payment had been made in situations where compensation is paid immediately after receiving services. For example, restaurant, hotel, salon services.

Theft Offenses

Theft in the first degree

The total value of the property involved is $1,000 or more. First-degree theft is punishable by up to $5,000 in fines, incarceration of up to 10 years, or both.

Theft in the second degree

The total value of the property involved is less than $1,000. Second-degree theft is punishable by up to fines up to $1,000, incarceration of up to 180 days, or both.

Penalties for Prior Convictions

A person convicted of first-degree or second-degree theft who has 2 or more prior convictions for theft, (not committed on the same occasion), is subject to fines, incarceration of up to 15 years (mandatory-minimum term of not less than 1 year) or both.

A person sentenced under this section won't be released from prison, granted probation, or granted suspension of sentence, prior to serving the mandatory-minimum.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

District of Columbia Theft Laws: Related Resources

Facing District of Columbia Theft Charges? Locate an Attorney

If you or someone you know has been accused of theft in D.C., then you should get help from an attorney who can protect your rights and weigh your options. Use FindLaw's attorney directory to locate a criminal defense attorney near you.

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