Colorado Petty Theft and Other Theft Laws

According to Colorado statutes on criminal law, theft occurs when a person “knowingly obtains or exercises control over" anything of value (i.e. property or services) belonging to another, without the owner's permission, and:

  • intends to deprive the owner permanently of the property
  • knowingly uses, conceals, or abandons the property, or
  • demands any payment to which he or she is not legally entitled, as a condition of restoring the property to the owner. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-4-401(a).)

Colorado law also identifies several specific types of theft, including:

  • theft of rental property (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-4-402.)
  • theft of trade secrets (§ 18-4-408.)
  • aggravated motor vehicle theft (§ 18-4-409.)
  • theft of medical records (§ 18-4-412.)
  • theft by resale of ski lift ticket or coupon (§ 18-4-416.)
  • fuel piracy (§ 18-4-418.)
  • newspaper theft (§ 18-4-419.)

In the state of Colorado, separate statutes also exist for theft of sound recordings (§ 18-4-601), theft of cable television services (§ 18-4-701), and theft of public transportation services (§ 18-4-801.)

Classification of Offenses and Punishment

As is the case in many states, Colorado law classifies theft as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending in part on the value of the items stolen and the circumstances surrounding the offense. Let's take a closer look at each level of theft as the offenses are classified under Colorado law.

Class 2 Misdemeanor Theft. When the value of the property stolen is less than $500, Colorado law classifies theft as a class 2 misdemeanor, which is the lowest-level theft offense.  (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-4-401(2)(b).) This level of theft is also known as petty theft. Punishment for a class 2 misdemeanor in Colorado is a minimum sentence of three months and a $250 fine, and a maximum sentence of 12 months and a $1,000 fine. (§ 18-1.3-501(1)(a).)

Class 1 Misdemeanor Theft. Theft is a class 1 misdemeanor in Colorado if the value of the property stolen is $500 or more but less than $1,000. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-4-401(2)(b.5).) For a class 1 misdemeanor, Colorado law provides for a minimum sentence of six months and a $500 fine, and a maximum sentence of 18 months and a $5,000 fine. (§ 18-1.3-501(1)(a).)

Class 5 Felony Theft. Theft is a class 5 felony under Colorado law if property is taken from the person of another, without force or intimidation -- otherwise the offense could be bumped up to robbery (theft through force) or extortion (theft through intimidation). (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-4-401(5).) Class 5 felony theft carries a sentence of one to three years imprisonment, including at least two years of parole. (§ 18-1.3-401(V)(A).)

Class 4 Felony Theft. Theft is a class 4 felony in Colorado if the value of the property stolen is $1,000 or more but less than $20,000. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-4-401(2)(c).) For a class 4 felony, the sentence is a minimum of two years with a maximum of six years imprisonment, with parole for a minimum of three years, plus a fine of $2,000 to $500,000. (§ 18-1.3-401(V)(A).)

Class 3 Felony Theft. Theft is a class 3 felony in Colorado if the value of the property stolen is $20,000 or more. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-4-401(2)(d).) A class 3 felony carries a sentence of a minimum of four years and a maximum of 12 years imprisonment, with at least five years of parole, plus a fine ranging from $3,000 to $750,000. (§ 18-1.3-401(V)(A).)

Effect of Prior Convictions on Punishment for Theft in Colorado

Under Colorado law, anyone convicted of felony-level theft involving merchandise taken from a store, and whose criminal record already includes two felony theft convictions involving theft from a store within the last four years, will receive a sentence of at least the minimum term allowed for the offense, and will not be eligible for probation or a suspended sentence. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-4-413.)

Civil Penalties

In addition to criminal penalties, a person who commits shoplifting in Colorado (or the parent or legal guardian of a minor who commits shoplifting) can be held civilly liable to the store owner for actual damages, plus an additional penalty of from $100 to $250, payable to the store owner. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-21-107.5.)

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