Code of the District of Columbia

Subchapter II. Theft; Related Offenses.


§ 22–3211. Theft.

(a) For the purpose of this section, the term “wrongfully obtains or uses” means: (1) taking or exercising control over property; (2) making an unauthorized use, disposition, or transfer of an interest in or possession of property; or (3) obtaining property by trick, false pretense, false token, tampering, or deception. The term “wrongfully obtains or uses” includes conduct previously known as larceny, larceny by trick, larceny by trust, embezzlement, and false pretenses.

(b) A person commits the offense of theft if that person wrongfully obtains or uses the property of another with intent:

(1) To deprive the other of a right to the property or a benefit of the property; or

(2) To appropriate the property to his or her own use or to the use of a third person.

(c) In cases in which the theft of property is in the form of services, proof that a person obtained services that he or she knew or had reason to believe were available to him or her only for compensation and that he or she departed from the place where the services were obtained knowing or having reason to believe that no payment had been made for the services rendered in circumstances where payment is ordinarily made immediately upon the rendering of the services or prior to departure from the place where the services are obtained, shall be prima facie evidence that the person had committed the offense of theft.


(Dec. 1, 1982, D.C. Law 4-164, § 111, 29 DCR 3976.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 22-3811.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 22-3202, § 22-3212, § 23-546, § 23-581, § 27-101, and § 50-1403.02.

Cross References

Consecutive sentences for theft and certain other crimes, availability, see § 22-3203.

Enhanced penalty for crimes committed against senior citizen victims, see § 22-3601.

Forgery, see § 22-3241.

Medicaid Provider Fraud Prevention Act, penalties for violation, see § 4-802.

Merchant’s civil recovery for criminal conduct, fraud, theft and shoplifting defined, see § 27-101.

Receiving stolen property, see § 22-3232.

Trafficking in stolen property, see § 22-3231.


§ 22–3212. Penalties for theft.

(a) Theft in the first degree. — Any person convicted of theft in the first degree shall be fined not more than the amount set forth in § 22-3571.01 or imprisoned for not more than 10 years, or both, if the value of the property obtained or used is $1,000 or more.

(b) Theft in the second degree. — Any person convicted of theft in the second degree shall be fined not more than the amount set forth in § 22-3571.01 or imprisoned for not more than 180 days, or both, if the property obtained or used has some value.

(c) A person convicted of theft in the first or second degree who has 2 or more prior convictions for theft, not committed on the same occasion, shall be fined not more than the amount set forth in § 22-3571.01 or imprisoned for not more than 15 years and for a mandatory-minimum term of not less than one year, or both. A person sentenced under this subsection shall not be released from prison, granted probation, or granted suspension of sentence, prior to serving the mandatory-minimum.

(d) For the purposes of this section, a person shall be considered as having 2 or more prior convictions for theft if he or she has been convicted on at least 2 occasions of violations of:

(1) Section 22-3211;

(2) A statute in one or more jurisdictions prohibiting theft or larceny; or

(3) Conduct that would constitute a violation of section 22-3211 if committed in the District of Columbia.


(Dec. 1, 1982, D.C. Law 4-164, § 112, 29 DCR 3976; Aug. 20, 1994, D.C. Law 10-151, § 113(a), 41 DCR 2608; June 3, 1997, D.C. Law 11-275, § 12(b), 44 DCR 1408; Dec. 10, 2009, D.C. Law 18-88, § 214(d), 56 DCR 7413; June 11, 2013, D.C. Law 19-317, § 205(a), 60 DCR 2064; Nov. 23, 2016, D.C. Law 21-166, § 2(a), 63 DCR 10733.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 22-3812.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 18-88, in subsec. (a), substituted “$1,000” for “$250”; in subsec. (b), substituted “if the property obtained or used has some value” for “if the value of the property obtained or used is less than $250”; and added subsecs. (c) and (d).

The 2013 amendment by D.C. Law 19-317 substituted “not more than the amount set forth in § 22-3571.01” for “not more than $5,000” in (a) and (c), and for “not more than $1,000” in (b).

Emergency Legislation

For temporary amendment of section, see § 113(a) of the Omnibus Criminal Justice Reform Emergency Amendment Act of 1994 (D.C. Act 10-255, June 22, 1994, 41 DCR 4286).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 214(d) of Omnibus Public Safety and Justice Emergency Amendment Act of 2009 (D.C. Act 18-181, August 6, 2009, 56 DCR 6903).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 214(d) of Omnibus Public Safety and Justice Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2009 (D.C. Act 18-227, October 21, 2009, 56 DCR 8668).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 205(a) of the Criminal Fine Proportionality Emergency Act of 2013 (D.C. Act 20-45, April 1, 2013, 60 DCR 5400, 20 DCSTAT 1300).

Editor's Notes

Applicability of D.C. Law 19-317: Section 401 of D.C. Law 19-317 provided that the act shall apply only to offenses committed on or after June 11, 2013.


§ 22–3213. Shoplifting.

(a) A person commits the offense of shoplifting if, with intent to appropriate without complete payment any personal property of another that is offered for sale or with intent to defraud the owner of the value of the property, that person:

(1) Knowingly conceals or takes possession of any such property;

(2) Knowingly removes or alters the price tag, serial number, or other identification mark that is imprinted on or attached to such property; or

(3) Knowingly transfers any such property from the container in which it is displayed or packaged to any other display container or sales package.

(b) Any person convicted of shoplifting shall be fined not more than the amount set forth in § 22-3571.01 or imprisoned for not more than 90 days, or both.

(c) It is not an offense to attempt to commit the offense described in this section.

(d) A person who offers tangible personal property for sale to the public, or an employee or agent of such a person, who detains or causes the arrest of a person in a place where the property is offered for sale shall not be held liable for detention, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, defamation, or false arrest, in any proceeding arising out of such detention or arrest, if:

(1) The person detaining or causing the arrest had, at the time thereof, probable cause to believe that the person detained or arrested had committed in that person’s presence, an offense described in this section;

(2) The manner of the detention or arrest was reasonable;

(3) Law enforcement authorities were notified within a reasonable time; and

(4) The person detained or arrested was released within a reasonable time of the detention or arrest, or was surrendered to law enforcement authorities within a reasonable time.


(Dec. 1, 1982, D.C. Law 4-164, § 113, 29 DCR 3976; June 11, 2013, D.C. Law 19-317, § 205(b), 60 DCR 2064.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 22-3813.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 23-581 and § 27-101.

Effect of Amendments

The 2013 amendment by D.C. Law 19-317 substituted “not more than the amount set forth in § 22-3571.01” for “not more than $300” in (b).

Cross References

Merchant’s Civil Recovery for Criminal Conduct, see § 27-101 et seq.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 205(b) of the Criminal Fine Proportionality Emergency Act of 2013 (D.C. Act 20-45, April 1, 2013, 60 DCR 5400, 20 DCSTAT 1300).

Editor's Notes

Applicability of D.C. Law 19-317: Section 401 of D.C. Law 19-317 provided that the act shall apply only to offenses committed on or after June 11, 2013.


§ 22–3214. Commercial piracy.

(a) For the purpose of this section, the term:

(1) “Owner”, with respect to phonorecords or copies, means the person who owns the original fixation of the property involved or the exclusive licensee in the United States of the rights to reproduce and distribute to the public phonorecords or copies of the original fixation. In the case of a live performance the term “owner” means the performer or performers.

(2) “Proprietary information” means customer lists, mailing lists, formulas, recipes, computer programs, unfinished designs, unfinished works of art in any medium, process, program, invention, or any other information, the primary commercial value of which may diminish if its availability is not restricted.

(3) “Phonorecords” means material objects in which sounds, other than those accompanying a motion picture or other audiovisual work, are fixed by any method now known or later developed, and from which the sounds can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. The term “phonorecords” includes the material object in which the sounds are first fixed.

(b) A person commits the offense of commercial piracy if, with the intent to sell, to derive commercial gain or advantage, or to allow another person to derive commercial gain or advantage, that person reproduces or otherwise copies, possesses, buys, or otherwise obtains phonorecords of a sound recording, live performance, or copies of proprietary information, knowing or having reason to believe that the phonorecord or copies were made without the consent of the owner. A presumption of the requisite intent arises if the accused possesses 5 or more unauthorized phonorecords either of the same sound recording or recording of a live performance.

(c) Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit:

(1) Copying or other reproduction that is in the manner specifically permitted by Title 17 of the United States Code; or

(2) Copying or other reproduction of a sound recording that is made by a licensed radio or television station or a cable broadcaster solely for broadcast or archival use.

(d) Any person convicted of commercial piracy shall be fined not more than the amount set forth in § 22-3571.01 or imprisoned for not more than 180 days, or both.

(e) This section does not apply to any sound recording initially fixed on or after February 15, 1972.


(Dec. 1, 1982, D.C. Law 4-164, § 114, 29 DCR 3976; Aug. 20, 1994, D.C. Law 10-151, § 113(b), 41 DCR 2608; Oct. 31, 1995, D.C. Law 11-73, § 2(a), 42 DCR 3277; June 11, 2013, D.C. Law 19-317, § 205(c), 60 DCR 2064.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 22-3814.

Effect of Amendments

The 2013 amendment by D.C. Law 19-317 substituted “not more than the amount set forth in § 22-3571.01” for “not more than $1,000” in (d).

Cross References

Consecutive sentences for theft and certain other crimes, availability, see § 22-3203.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary amendment of section, see § 113(b) of the Omnibus Criminal Justice Reform Emergency Amendment Act of 1994 (D.C. Act 10-255, June 22, 1994, 41 DCR 4286).

For temporary amendment of section, see § 2 of the Commercial Piracy Protection Emergency Amendment Act of 1994 (D.C. Act 10-363, December 15, 1994, 41 DCR 8059).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 205(c) of the Criminal Fine Proportionality Emergency Act of 2013 (D.C. Act 20-45, April 1, 2013, 60 DCR 5400, 20 DCSTAT 1300).

Editor's Notes

Applicability of D.C. Law 19-317: Section 401 of D.C. Law 19-317 provided that the act shall apply only to offenses committed on or after June 11, 2013.


§ 22–3214.01. Deceptive labeling.

(a) For the purposes of this section, the term:

(1) “Audiovisual works” means material objects upon which are fixed a series of related images which are intrinsically intended to be shown by the use of machines or devices such as projectors, viewers, or electronic equipment, now known or later developed, together with accompanying sounds, if any, regardless of the nature of the material objects, such as films or tapes, in which the works are embodied.

(2) “Manufacturer” means the person who authorizes or causes the copying, fixation, or transfer of sounds or images to sound recordings or audiovisual works subject to this section.

(3) “Sound recordings” means material objects in which sounds, other than those accompanying a motion picture or other audiovisual work, are fixed by any method now known or later developed, and from which the sounds can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.

(b) A person commits the offense of deceptive labeling if, for commercial advantage or private financial gain, that person knowingly advertises, offers for sale, resale, or rental, or sells, resells, rents, distributes, or transports, or possesses for such purposes, a sound recording or audiovisual work, the label, cover, or jacket of which does not clearly and conspicuously disclose the true name and address of the manufacturer thereof.

(c) Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit:

(1) Any broadcaster who, in connection with, or as part of, a radio or television broadcast transmission, or for the purposes of archival preservation, transfers any sounds or images recorded on a sound recording or audiovisual work; or

(2) Any person who, in his own home, for his own personal use, and without deriving any commercial advantage or private financial gain, transfers any sounds or images recorded on a sound recording or audiovisual work.

(d)(1) Any person convicted of deceptive labeling involving less than 1,000 sound recordings or less than 100 audiovisual works during any 180-day period shall be fined not more than the amount set forth in § 22-3571.01 or imprisoned for not more than 1 year, or both.

(2) Any person convicted of deceptive labeling involving 1,000 or more sound recordings or 100 or more audiovisual works during a 180-day period shall be fined not more than the amount set forth in § 22-3571.01 or imprisoned for not more than 5 years, or both.

(e) Upon conviction under this section, the court shall, in addition to the penalties provided by this section, order the forfeiture and destruction or other disposition of all sound recordings, audiovisual works, and equipment used, or attempted to be used, in violation of this section.


(Dec. 1, 1982, D.C. Law 4-164, § 114a; as added Oct. 31, 1995, D.C. Law 11-73, § 2(b), 42 DCR 3277; June 11, 2013, D.C. Law 19-317, § 205(d), 60 DCR 2064.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 22-3814.1.

Effect of Amendments

The 2013 amendment by D.C. Law 19-317 substituted “not more than the amount set forth in § 22-3571.01” for “not more than $10,000” in (d)(1), and for “not more than $50,000” in (d)(2).

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 205(d) of the Criminal Fine Proportionality Emergency Act of 2013 (D.C. Act 20-45, April 1, 2013, 60 DCR 5400, 20 DCSTAT 1300).

Editor's Notes

Applicability of D.C. Law 19-317: Section 401 of D.C. Law 19-317 provided that the act shall apply only to offenses committed on or after June 11, 2013.


§ 22–3214.02. Unlawful operation of a recording device in a motion picture theater.

(a) For the purposes of this section, the term:

(1) “Motion picture theater” means a theater or other auditorium in which a motion picture is exhibited.

(2) “Recording device” means a photographic or video camera, audio or video recorder, or any other device not existing, or later developed, which may be used for recording sounds or images.

(b) A person commits the offense of unlawfully operating a recording device in a motion picture theater if, without authority or permission from the owner of a motion picture theater, or his or her agent, that person operates a recording device within the premises of a motion picture theater.

(c) Any person convicted of unlawfully operating a recording device in a motion picture theater shall be fined not more than the amount set forth in § 22-3571.01 or imprisoned for not more than 90 days, or both.

(d) A theater owner, or an employee or agent of a theater owner, who detains or causes the arrest of a person in, or immediately adjacent to, a motion picture theater shall not be held liable for detention, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, defamation, or false arrest in any proceeding arising out of such detention or arrest, if:

(1) The person detaining or causing the arrest had, at the time thereof, probable cause to believe that the person detained or arrested had committed, or attempted to commit, in that person’s presence, an offense described in this section;

(2) The manner of the detention or arrest was reasonable;

(3) Law enforcement authorities were notified within a reasonable time; and

(4) The person detained or arrested was released within a reasonable time of the detention or arrest, or was surrendered to law enforcement authorities within a reasonable time.


(Dec. 1, 1982, D.C. Law 4-164, § 114b; as added Oct. 31, 1995, D.C. Law 11-73, § 2(b), 42 DCR 3277; June 11, 2013, D.C. Law 19-317, § 205(e), 60 DCR 2064.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 22-3814.2.

Effect of Amendments

The 2013 amendment by D.C. Law 19-317 substituted “not more than the amount set forth in § 22-3571.01” for “not more than $300” in (c).

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 205(e) of the Criminal Fine Proportionality Emergency Act of 2013 (D.C. Act 20-45, April 1, 2013, 60 DCR 5400, 20 DCSTAT 1300).

Editor's Notes

Applicability of D.C. Law 19-317: Section 401 of D.C. Law 19-317 provided that the act shall apply only to offenses committed on or after June 11, 2013.


§ 22–3215. Unauthorized use of motor vehicles.

(a) For the purposes of this section, the term “motor vehicle” means any automobile, self-propelled mobile home, motorcycle, truck, truck tractor, truck tractor with semitrailer or trailer, or bus.

(b) A person commits the offense of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle under this subsection if, without the consent of the owner, the person takes, uses, or operates a motor vehicle, or causes a motor vehicle to be taken, used, or operated, for his or her own profit, use, or purpose.

(c)(1) A person commits the offense of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle under this subsection if, after renting, leasing, or using a motor vehicle under a written agreement which provides for the return of the motor vehicle to a particular place at a specified time, that person knowingly fails to return the motor vehicle to that place (or to any authorized agent of the party from whom the motor vehicle was obtained under the agreement) within 18 days after written demand is made for its return, if the conditions set forth in paragraph (2) of this subsection are met.

(2) The conditions referred to in paragraph (1) of this subsection are as follows:

(A) The written agreement under which the motor vehicle is obtained contains the following statement: “WARNING — Failure to return this vehicle in accordance with the terms of this rental agreement may result in a criminal penalty of up to 3 years in jail”. This statement shall be printed clearly and conspicuously in a contrasting color, set off in a box, and signed by the person obtaining the motor vehicle in a space specially provided;

(B) There is displayed clearly and conspicuously on the dashboard of the motor vehicle the following notice: “NOTICE — Failure to return this vehicle on time may result in serious criminal penalties”; and

(C) The party from whom the motor vehicle was obtained under the agreement makes a written demand for the return of the motor vehicle, either by actual delivery to the person who obtained the motor vehicle, or by deposit in the United States mail of a postpaid registered or certified letter, return receipt requested, addressed to the person at each address set forth in the written agreement or otherwise provided by the person. The written demand shall state clearly that failure to return the motor vehicle may result in prosecution for violation of the criminal law of the District of Columbia punishable by up to 3 years in jail. The written demand shall not be made prior to the date specified in the agreement for the return of the motor vehicle, except that, if the parties or their authorized agents have mutually agreed to some other date for the return of the motor vehicle, then the written demand shall not be made prior to the other date.

(3) This subsection shall not apply in the case of a motor vehicle obtained under a retail installation contract as defined in § 50-601(9).

(4) It shall be a defense in any criminal proceeding brought under this subsection that a person failed to return a motor vehicle for causes beyond his or her control. The burden of raising and going forward with the evidence with respect to such a defense shall be on the person asserting it. In any case in which such a defense is raised, evidence that the person obtained the motor vehicle by reason of any false statement or representation of material fact, including a false statement or representation regarding his or her name, residence, employment, or operator’s license, shall be admissible to determine whether the failure to return the motor vehicle was for causes beyond his or her control.

(d)(1) Except as provided in paragraphs (2) and (3) of this subsection, a person convicted of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle under subsection (b) of this section shall be fined not more than the amount set forth in § 22-3571.01, imprisoned for not more than 5 years, or both.

(2)(A) A person convicted of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle under subsection (b) of this section who took, used, or operated the motor vehicle, or caused the motor vehicle to be taken, used, or operated, during the course of or to facilitate a crime of violence, shall be:

(i) Fined not more than the amount set forth in § 22-3571.01, imprisoned for not more than 10 years, or both, consecutive to the penalty imposed for the crime of violence; and

(ii) If serious bodily injury results, imprisoned for not less than 5 years, consecutive to the penalty imposed for the crime of violence.

(B) For the purposes of this paragraph, the term “crime of violence” shall have the same meaning as provided in § 23-1331(4).

(3)(A) A person convicted of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle under subsection (b) of this section who has 2 or more prior convictions for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle or theft in the first degree, not committed on the same occasion, shall be fined not less than $5,000 and not more than the amount set forth in § 22-3571.01, or imprisoned for not less than 30 months nor more than 15 years, or both.

(B) For the purposes of this paragraph, a person shall be considered as having 2 prior convictions for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle or theft in the first degree if the person has been twice before convicted on separate occasions of:

(i) A prior violation of subsection (b) of this section or theft in the first degree;

(ii) A statute in one or more other jurisdictions prohibiting unauthorized use of a motor vehicle or theft in the first degree;

(iii) Conduct that would constitute a violation of subsection (b) of this section or a violation of theft in the first degree if committed in the District of Columbia; or

(iv) Conduct that is substantially similar to that prosecuted as a violation of subsection (b) of this section or theft in the first degree.

(4) A person convicted of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle under subsection (c) of this section shall be fined not more than the amount set forth in § 22-3571.01, imprisoned for not more than 3 years, or both.


(Dec. 1, 1982, D.C. Law 4-164, § 115, 29 DCR 3976; Mar. 10, 1983, D.C. Law 4-199, § 2, 30 DCR 119; Dec. 10, 2009, D.C. Law 18-88, § 214(e), 56 DCR 7413; June 11, 2013, D.C. Law 19-317, § 205(f), 60 DCR 2064.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 22-3815.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 16-2331, § 16-2332, § 16-2333, § 23-581, and § 50-1403.02.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 18-88 rewrote subsecs. (b) and (d).

The 2013 amendment by D.C. Law 19-317, in (d), substituted “not more than the amount set forth in § 22-3571.01” for “not more than $1,000” in (d)(1) and (d)(4), and for “not more than $10,000” in (d)(2)(A)(i); and substituted “and not more than the amount set forth in § 22-3571.01” for “nor more than $15,000” in (d)(3)(A).

Cross References

Consecutive sentences for theft and certain other crimes, availability, see § 22-3203.

No-Fault Motor Vehicle Insurance Act, penalties and adjudications, see § 35-2113.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 102(d) of Crime Bill Emergency Amendment Act of 2009 (D.C. Act 18-129, June 29, 2009, 56 DCR 5495).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 214(e) of Omnibus Public Safety and Justice Emergency Amendment Act of 2009 (D.C. Act 18-181, August 6, 2009, 56 DCR 6903).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 214(e) of Omnibus Public Safety and Justice Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2009 (D.C. Act 18-227, October 21, 2009, 56 DCR 8668).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 205(f) of the Criminal Fine Proportionality Emergency Act of 2013 (D.C. Act 20-45, April 1, 2013, 60 DCR 5400, 20 DCSTAT 1300).

Editor's Notes

Applicability of D.C. Law 19-317: Section 401 of D.C. Law 19-317 provided that the act shall apply only to offenses committed on or after June 11, 2013.

Mayor's Orders

District of Columbia Vehicle Theft Prevention Council, see Mayor’s Order 2002-34, March 1, 2002 ( 49 DCR 1876).


§ 22–3216. Taking property without right.

A person commits the offense of taking property without right if that person takes and carries away the property of another without right to do so. A person convicted of taking property without right shall be fined not more than the amount set forth in § 22-3571.01 or imprisoned for not more than 90 days, or both.


(Dec. 1, 1982, D.C. Law 4-164, § 116, 29 DCR 3976; June 11, 2013, D.C. Law 19-317, § 205(g), 60 DCR 2064.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 22-3816.

Effect of Amendments

The 2013 amendment by D.C. Law 19-317 substituted “not more than the amount set forth in § 22-3571.01” for “not more than $300”.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 205(g) of the Criminal Fine Proportionality Emergency Act of 2013 (D.C. Act 20-45, April 1, 2013, 60 DCR 5400, 20 DCSTAT 1300).

Editor's Notes

Applicability of D.C. Law 19-317: Section 401 of D.C. Law 19-317 provided that the act shall apply only to offenses committed on or after June 11, 2013.