Theft Charges in DC

Theft charges in DC can be incredibly complex. Depending on the degree of the charge, the evidence involved in the case, and the particular elements being presented, the penalties involved can vary incredibly. There are many things to know about theft charges in DC, which can only be answered by a knowledgeable attorney. An experienced lawyer will be able to properly handle all of the facts involved in a theft case, and help to accurately present them to the benefit of their client.

Types of Theft Charges

There are two different levels of theft charges. The felony level theft charge is theft in the first degree and the misdemeanor level theft charge is theft in the second degree.

A theft charge is any taking of property Theft Case Lawyer in DCthat belongs to another person with the intent to deprive the person of that property. There doesn’t have to be any force used in a theft charge. A theft charge, for example, can be taking something off someone’s desk in an office. That’s a major difference between theft and robbery. In a robbery case, there has to be physical force used. That doesn’t mean that robbery requires a weapon or that the other person involved has to be injured, but there has to be some physical force used. This charge can be something as simple as grabbing a cell phone out of someone’s hand. That act alone, of grabbing a cell phone out of someone’s hand by using force, can make the charge a felony, as opposed to a misdemeanor. That is what makes robbery a felony, as opposed to theft, which is a misdemeanor.

Theft is almost always a misdemeanor, unless the value of the property taken is more than $1,000. If the value of the property taken is more than $1,000, then the theft will be classified as a felony.

Determining the Type of Theft Defense

The sole difference between the theft in the first-degree charge and the theft in the second-degree charge is the value of the item or items stolen. A first-degree theft charge will be a situation where a person has taken an item or items with a value of $1,000 or more. If the item or items have a value of less than $1,000 or any value at all, then it will be charged a second-degree theft.

Difference Between Theft and Burglary

Burglary and theft are very different. Burglary is typically entering into a person’s residence through some use of force. Use of force doesn’t necessarily mean that an individual breaks down the person’s door, or that they had to struggle their way in, it just has to be without permission. When an individual enters the person’s residence, they will also have to have the intent to commit another crime once inside. An individual does not necessarily have to enter a person’s residence with the intent of stealing things from the inside. A person can enter someone’s residence with the intent of assaulting the person on the inside, or with the intent of setting fire to something on the inside, which could be an arson charge.


Shoplifting has its own law in the DC Code. Shoplifting is defined as going into a store, taking an item of value, and leaving or attempting to leave without the intent to pay for that item. Shoplifting has similar elements to theft, but the two are considered to be separate offenses in the DC Code.

Shoplifting is a separate statute, but it is typically charged as second degree theft as long as the value of the items taken was less than $1,000. If there is a shoplifting case in which the value of the item is more than $1,000, then that would be charged as first degree theft. Even though shoplifting is considered to be a separate charge in the DC code, it is often still charged as theft. The penalty for shoplifting is different than for theft. The maximum penalty for shoplifting is 90 days in jail, but the maximum penalty for second degree theft is 180 days.

Uniqueness of a Shoplifting Charge

Shoplifting cases are unique because there is a very specific circumstance in which they take place. The way that a prosecutor has to prove a shoplifting case is that a person took possession of some item that is being offered for sale, and that could be done by moving or altering the price tag, changing a serial number, changing a UPC on the item, or altering it from the way that it is being sold and putting it into a different container. For example, if a person takes a bottle of liquor in a store and pours the contents of the bottle into another receptacle and then moves that receptacle out of the store, it is considered shoplifting. Shoplifting involves the concealing or taking of an item that was for sale as opposed to taking an item that belonged to someone else.