The basic principle of theft is the taking of property that belongs to someone else, with the intent to permanently deprive that person of the property. In addition to theft of actual concrete items, there can be theft of services as well as identity theft.
Embezzlement is the term used for when theft and fraud take place victimizing an employer or an organization with which the alleged thief holds a special position, thus enabling their access to whatever it is that was stolen. The value of the theft, or the value of the property that was taken without permission, is typically the determining factor as to whether the charge is a misdemeanor or a more serious felony.
The most common theft charge is Second Degree Theft, which is a low-value misdemeanor. For example, if a passenger skips out on a cab ride, or someone shoplifts something of little monetary value. In a city like DC, there are many misdemeanor theft charges similar in scope.
More serious felony theft charges include white-collar theft, embezzlement, or the taking of some form of property. The most common charges are not actually the taking of the property, but the use of fraud to take money, commit identity theft, or otherwise accessing someone else’s personal information in the attempt to deprive them of what is theirs.
Theft encompasses crimes such as stealing a bicycle, but it is more common to see theft of services, such as a passenger not paying for their cab ride. That is a misdemeanor in almost every circumstance, while the most common type of theft at the felony level is some form of embezzlement.
An attempted theft means that an individual took steps toward accomplishing a crime, but they did not actually complete a crime. The government can show that the person intended to commit an offense, in this case, theft, if the person made at least one actual step toward doing so, but was unsuccessful. If there is just enough proof to do so, the government can pursue an attempted theft charge.
Conspiracy to commit any offense, such as theft, must involve more than one person. If someone is alleged to have been acting in concert with one or more other people, the government is likely to file a conspiracy charge against those people, as well. These added charges can impact a case because the basic scenario of being charged with conspiracy or attempt means that regardless of whether or not the theft was successful, the defendant must also face additional charges.
This also means that the government is likely going to seek penalties for everything that it can when filing attempt and/or conspiracy charges. This affects a case in the sense of opposing what the government is trying to prove. Particularly, with conspiracy, that means there are likely additional co-defendants in a given case. The defendant must disprove the underlying charge, in this case, theft, and also refute the allegation that plans were made between two or more people to commit the theft.
Indictments only occur in felony cases in DC. Before the Office of the United States Attorney charges a person with a felony theft, they must secure an indictment from a grand jury. They present their witnesses and evidence to a grand jury, and the grand jury votes on whether to approve the charges against the person. Indictments are secret processes, meaning that the public and the defense are not privy to them. The government must secure an indictment if they want to proceed with felony charges.
When the government believes it has evidence against the person, they are almost always able to secure an indictment against that person. The government controls the process entirely, which means they decide who to call as witnesses, which questions to ask, and that they make sure there is no one challenging the evidence or presenting any other evidence to dispute it.
In that regard, most often, if the government is seeking to obtain an indictment, they will do so, but not always. The government must have all of their witnesses and all of their relevant evidence lined up. There are cases where that does not occur, and the government simply is unable to gather their case. When they cannot get their case together before the grand jury, the case is dismissed for lack of an indictment in a felony case.
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