Shoplifting Charges in Colorado

Learn about the laws, penalties and civil consequences of a shoplifting charge in Colorado. Find out if you can avoid a conviction and criminal record

Colorado law imposes criminal sanctions on shoplifters that can result in defendants facing jail time and fines. In addition, victimized merchants can sue shoplifters in civil court for damages.

Colorado Shoplifting Laws

Colorado defines the crime of theft, which incorporates shoplifting, under sections18-4-401 and 18-4-403 of the Colorado Revised Statutes. Theft involves knowingly obtaining or exercising control over someone else's property with intent to deprive that person of the property. The penalties for theft are based on the value of the property that is stolen, becoming progressively more serious as the worth of the stolen property increases.

Merchants are permitted to detain and question individuals if the merchants have reason to believe the shoplifter has set off an alarm, concealed merchandise, or carried away unpurchased merchandise. Merchants can also sue adult and emancipated minor shoplifters (or the parents or legal guardians of unemancipated minors) in a civil lawsuit.  Criminal and civil penalties for shoplifting are described below.

Colorado Shoplifting Criminal Penalties




Theft of items valued at less than $500

Class 2 misdemeanor under 18-4-401(b)

Between three months and one year maximum in jail and/or fines between $250 and $1,000

Theft of items valued at between $500 and $1000

Class 1 misdemeanor under 18-4-401 (b5)

Between 6 and 18 months of jail time and/or fines totaling between $500 and $5,000

Tampering with theft detection devices and/or possessing tools used to tamper with theft detection devices

Class 1 misdemeanor under 18-4-417(3)

Between 6 and 18 months of jail time and/or fines totaling between $500 and $5,000

Theft of items valued between $1,000 and $20,000

Class 4 felony under 18-4-401 (c)

Between 2 and 6 years of jail time and/or fines totaling $2,000 to $500,000

Theft of items with a value exceeding $20,000

Class 3 felony under 18-4-401 (d)

Between 4 and 12 years of jail time and/or fines totaling $3,000 to $750,000

Civil Penalties

Adult or emancipated minor shoplifters (or the parents or legal guardians of unemancipated minors who commit shoplifting) are civilly liable to the owner of the shoplifted property for actual damages plus a penalty between $100 and $250.

Pretrial Diversion and Plea Bargaining

Some counties in Colorado offer pretrial diversion programs to certain individuals accused of first-time or low-level crimes. If an accused completes the program requirements, which could include activities such as paying restitution and performing community service, the criminal charges will be dropped.

When diversion is not an option, the accused may be able to negotiate a plea deal with the prosecutor. Prosecutors have the discretion to reduce the criminal charges or sentencing in exchange for an admission of guilt.

Learn more about diversion and pretrial options.

Getting Legal Help

If you have been accused of shoplifting in Colorado, you should strongly consider getting help from a criminal lawyer. A criminal attorney can advise you of opportunities for participating in pretrial diversion programs, raising defenses, and negotiating plea bargains in order to limit your exposure to criminal penalties.

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