Colorado Misdemeanor and Felony Theft Laws

Learn about Colorado's criminal penalties for misdemeanor and felony theft.

By , Attorney

Colorado's theft law covers a broad range of offenses, including theft of property or services, embezzlement, theft by receiving stolen property, extortion, theft by deception, and shoplifting. Learn how Colorado classifies and punishes theft offenses.

Theft Laws and Definitions in Colorado

Colorado defines theft broadly to include acts we generally think of as theft, such as stealing a car, money, or other property. But it also includes unlawfully obtaining or receiving any "thing of value" by threat or deception or knowing it's stolen. To be considered theft, the defendant must intend to permanently deprive the owner of their property or its use, or demand unlawful compensation for its return.

Given this definition, stealing, embezzling, extorting, shoplifting, and receiving stolen property are all considered theft. The law also makes it a crime to intentionally misrepresent eligibility for public assistance benefits.

Like many states, Colorado law classifies theft as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the value of the items stolen. Below are the various levels of theft classified under Colorado law.

(Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-4-401 (2022).)

Misdemeanor and Petty Theft in Colorado

Colorado has three levels of misdemeanor and petty theft. Below are the classifications based on the value of the property or services stolen.

Petty Theft in Colorado

If the stolen property or services is valued at less than $300, the defendant commits a petty offense. A petty offense carries a maximum penalty of 10 days in jail and a $300 fine.

Class 2 Misdemeanor Theft in Colorado

If the stolen property or services is valued at $300 or more but less than $1,000, the defendant commits a class 2 misdemeanor. This misdemeanor class carries a maximum penalty of 120 days in jail and a $750 fine.

Class 1 Misdemeanor Theft in Colorado

If the stolen property or services is valued at $1,000 or more but less than $2,000, the defendant commits a class 1 misdemeanor. This misdemeanor class carries a maximum penalty of 364 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Felony or Grand Theft in Colorado

Theft becomes a felony in colorado once the amount stolen reaches $2,000. Colorado divides felony theft into five classifications.

Class 6 Felony Theft in Colorado

If the stolen property or services is valued at $2,000 or more but less than $5,000, the defendant commits a class 6 felony. This felony class carries a maximum penalty of 18 months' imprisonment and a $100,000 fine.

Class 5 Felony Theft in Colorado

If the stolen property or services is valued at $5,000 or more but less than $20,000, the defendant commits a class 5 felony. This felony class carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Class 4 Felony Theft in Colorado

If the stolen property or services is valued at $20,000 or more but less than $100,000, the defendant commits a class 4 felony. This felony class carries a maximum penalty of six years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

Class 3 Felony Theft in Colorado

If the stolen property or services is valued at $100,000 or more but less than $1,000,000, the defendant commits a class 3 felony. This felony class carries a maximum penalty of 12 years in prison and a $750,000 fine.

Class 2 Felony Theft in Colorado

If the stolen property or services is valued at $1,000,000 or more, the defendant commits a class 2 felony. This felony class carries a maximum penalty of 24 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine.

Enhanced Penalties for Repeat Felony Offenders in Colorado

Colorado law increases the maximum possible sentence for habitual felons (repeat felony offenders). The enhancement depends on the felony classification of the current and prior offenses, the number of prior convictions, and the time period between convictions. Generally, a third-time felon faces a punishment up to three times the maximum presumptive sentence, and a fourth-time felon faces up to four times the maximum presumptive sentence.

(Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 18-1.3-401, -501, -801 (2022).)

Shoplifting Laws and Penalties in Colorado

Many (if not all) states allow civil penalties in addition to criminal penalties for shoplifting offenses.

Criminal Penalties for Shoplifting in Colorado

In Colorado, shoplifting is a theft offense. The value of the item shoplifted, or concealed in order to shoplift, will determine the offense level and penalty (see above penalties). As with other theft offenses, shoplifting merchandise worth less than $2,000 will be considered a petty or misdemeanor theft, and anything above that is a felony.

Repeat felony shoplifting. Anyone convicted, within four years, of a third felony-level theft involving merchandise taken from a store must receive the minimum sentence term and is not eligible for probation or a suspended sentence.

Shoplifting devices. A separate law makes it a class 2 misdemeanor to intentionally use or possess a device or tool that deactivates or removes, or prevents detection of, a theft protection device. Examples include wire cutters, foil-lined bags, detection-proof containers, or tag removal tools. (Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 18-4-401, -406, -413, -417 (2022).)

Civil Penalties for Shoplifting in Colorado

Additionally, 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 (2022).)

Defense to Theft Charges in Colorado

Common defenses to theft charges include actual innocence ("It wasn't me!") and lack of proof by the prosecution. For instance, a defense attorney might try to poke holes in the prosecution's case by arguing that the defendant never intended to permanently deprive the owner of the property (they were going to return it) or that the owner gave the defendant permission to take the item (it was a misunderstanding). If the prosecution doesn't prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, the jury or judge must acquit. Another defense strategy is to challenge the value attributed to the stolen property or services to reduce the charges.

Talk to a Lawyer

If you've been charged with theft or shoplifting, speak with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can help protect your rights, explain the criminal justice process, and evaluate and raise possible defenses. Even if you're charged with petty or misdemeanor theft, you might want to consult with an attorney. A criminal theft record can impact your ability down the road to get a job, housing, or loan.

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