DC Theft Offense Lawyer
Several types of theft offenses exist in the District of Columbia and Northern Virginia. The laws differ across the Potomac, so let’s start with theft offenses in DC. Several theft type statutes exist in DC, including first and second-degree theft, first and second-degree fraud, and shoplifting. While all three types of offenses are similar, its important to note some key differences in the elements of each offense and the potential maximum penalties.
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Theft in DC
Misdemeanor theft in DC is the most commonly charged offense involving the physical taking of property from another. The seriousness of the offense depends on the value of the property taken. The cutoff between misdemeanor and felony theft is $1,000.00. That means if the value of the property taken is over $1,000.00, the government can charge the offense as first-degree, felony theft. The maximum penalty for felony theft is 10 years in jail and/or a $5,000.00 fine. This stands in stark contrast to second-degree theft, which is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail and/or a $1,000.00 fine.
Often times, the government may offer diversion for misdemeanor theft, which could include returning the property and completing community service in exchange for dismissal of the case. However, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, which prosecutes theft offenses in DC, will not offer diversion in felony cases. Accordingly, the seriousness of the crime and potential consequences drastically changes depending the value of the property taken.
To prove someone guilty of theft in the first or second degree, the government must prove (beyond a reasonable doubt) that:
- The property in question must belong to another;
- The accused must “wrongfully obtain or use” the property;
- Finally, the person must have a wrongful state of mind, meaning either
- Have an intent to deprive the lawful owner of the right and benefit of the property;
- Or appropriate the property for his or her own use or use for a third party
And, as mentioned above, the question of whether its charged as a felony or misdemeanor depends on the total value of the property in question.
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Shoplifting in DC
Shoplifting is a crime very similar to theft. However, it carries a slightly lower maximum penalty. In DC, shoplifting carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and/or a $300.00 fine. To prove someone guilty of shoplifting in DC, the government must prove three elements:
- The item in question must be personal property of another;
- The alleged intended to
- Appropriate it without payment; or
- To defraud the owner of the value of property; and
- The person knowingly does one of the following:
- Conceals or takes possession of the property;
- Removes or alters the price tag; or
- Transfers the property from one display case to another
For a shoplifting crime to occur and get prosecutor, one need not actually remove the item from the store. Simply concealing it or doing something that proves an intent to steal or defraud the owner. Obviously, just grabbing an item and getting in the cashier line would not provide proof of intent to steal. However, taking an item and tucking it under your clothes could provide proof of an intent to steal even if the individual never makes it out of the store before getting stopped by security.
Fraud in DC
Fraud, like theft, in DC, can either be charged as a felony or misdemeanor. First-degree fraud usually involves an individual using deception or misrepresentation to obtain the property of another. Fraud must include some type of deception. The actual act of fraud need not be committed to constitute second-degree fraud. The government could prove misdemeanor fraud with an attempt. For fraud in the first degree, the actual crime must be completed. In other words, the scheme has to successfully deprive the person of their property.
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With first-degree fraud, the value of the property must be over $250.00 to constitute a felony offense. Where the value is less than that, even if the crime is completed, it remains a misdemeanor offense. Second degree fraud becomes a felony where the value of the property exceeds $1,000.00. That means trying to defraud someone of more than $1,000.00 worth of property constitutes a felony under the DC code. One of the most common types of fraud committed is check fraud. In addition, identity theft, while having some overlap with fraud, is actually a separate offense.
Depending on the value of the property in question and the accused’s criminal history, one can very likely end up in jail if convicted for a fraud, shoplifting, or theft offense in DC. Accordingly, its important to speak to a qualified and experienced DC theft lawyer if you are under investigation or have been arrested.