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  • Writer's pictureB Hicks Law Firm

Understanding Theft in the Second Degree District of Columbia: A Closer Look at § 22–3211

Theft is a crime that occurs across the United States, but its legal definitions can vary from state to state. In the District of Columbia, theft is defined under § 22–3211 of the Code of the District of Columbia. This statute outlines the elements of theft, the various ways it can be committed, and the penalties associated with this crime. In this blog post, we will delve into the details of § 22–3211 and shed light on what constitutes theft in the nation's capital.

Understanding "Wrongfully Obtains or Uses":

Before delving into the specifics of theft, it's essential to understand the key term in this statute: "wrongfully obtains or uses." Under § 22–3211, this term encompasses three main actions:

  1. Taking or exercising control over property.

  2. Making an unauthorized use, disposition, or transfer of an interest in or possession of property.

  3. Obtaining property by trick, false pretense, false token, tampering, or deception.

These actions encompass conduct that was previously categorized under various theft-related offenses, including larceny, larceny by trick, larceny by trust, embezzlement, and false pretenses.

Elements of Theft:

To be charged with theft in the District of Columbia, a person must meet certain criteria outlined in § 22–3211. Theft occurs when an individual wrongfully obtains or uses another person's property with the intent to:

  1. Deprive the other person of a right to the property or a benefit of the property.

  2. Appropriate the property for their own use or the use of a third person.

In simpler terms, theft involves taking someone else's property with the intention of either denying the owner their rightful use of it or using it for personal gain.

Theft of Services:

In some cases, theft can take the form of services rather than physical property. Under § 22–3211, if a person obtains services that they knew or had reason to believe were only available for compensation and then departs from the place where the services were obtained without making a payment, it is considered prima facie evidence that theft has occurred. This provision ensures that individuals cannot fraudulently obtain services without paying for them, a form of theft often seen in various industries.


It's important to note that a violation of § 35-252 does not constitute a violation of § 22–3211. This means that certain actions that might otherwise be considered theft under different statutes are not covered by this particular law.


The penalties for theft in the District of Columbia can vary depending on the value of the stolen property or services. The severity of the offense can lead to different charges, including misdemeanor or felony charges, and corresponding penalties, including fines, restitution, and potential imprisonment.

In the District of Columbia, theft is a well-defined criminal offense under § 22–3211 of the Code. It encompasses a range of actions that involve taking someone else's property or services without permission and with the intent to deprive the owner of their rights or benefits. Understanding this statute is crucial for both residents and visitors to the nation's capital to ensure compliance with the law and avoid legal repercussions.

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