Theft in Colorado
Theft is a serious charge, no matter how little the amount—it is hard to imagine a conviction that looks worse on a background check when you are applying for a new job. You may be hardworking and trustworthy, but were tempted and on one occasion made a mistake. And if you are convicted of theft, that mistake may follow you forever. Do not let a single mistake define your life. A compassionate and skilled Denver theft lawyer will help you fight the charges, or obtain a resolution of the case that helps you move forward in your life.
Matthew Hand has experience with dozens of theft cases, including jury trial on theft charges.
Colorado Theft Penalties
The theft statute at Colorado Revised Statutes section 18-4-401 provides for different penalties depending on the value of the property taken.
- Petty Offense (up to 6 months jail) less than $50
- Class 3 misdemeanor (up to 6 months) $50 to $299
- Class 2 misdemeanor (up to 1 year) $300 to $749
- Class 1 misdemeanor (up to 18 months) $750 to $1999
- Class 6 felony* $2000 to $4999
- Class 5 felony* $5000 to $19,999
- Class 4 felony* $20,000 to $99,999
- Class 3 felony* $100,000 to $999,999
- Class 2 felony* $1,000,000 or more
*Felony sentencing ranges are quite complex and case specific. If you have been charged with a felony, talk to a criminal lawyer about the minimum and maximum prison sentences in you case.
How to Defend Theft Charges
The defense of your theft charge depends entirely on the facts of your case. A violent theft is typically charged as a robbery or aggravated robbery, and if it’s a theft from a home or a car it is often charged as a burglary or a trespass to an automobile. A theft of a car is often charged under a different statute, as are check and credit card fraud. If the police believe you are in possession of stolen property, but can not prove who stole it, they may charge you with theft by receiving. Theft is often the primary charge, however, in cases like shoplifting, theft from an employer, and other crimes of opportunity.
In most theft cases, the DA must prove that you intended to permanently deprive the other person of the property, and that you did not have permission to take the property. This can be difficult for the DA to prove when the defendant has a business, employment or personal relationship with the alleged victim. In those cases, it is important for a defense attorney to explore if you had implied permission to use or borrow the property, and if you had an intent to return the property at a later time. Both could lead to dismissal of your case, or acquittal at trial.
In all theft cases, the value of the items stolen is critical, as a higher dollar value can dramatically change sentencing. A good defense lawyer challenges the evidence on those dollar values. Additionally, theft cases often involve detailed legal wrangling over whether the DA can aggregate several small thefts over time to justify a more serious charge. A lawyer in your corner is essential.
In shoplifting situations, can the DA prove that you were trying to steal the merchandise, or were you apprehended before you got a chance to pay for the merchandise? It is very common for people who receive an urgent phone call, or who are under a lot of stress, to walk out of a store unaware that they have forgotten to pay for some items. Sometimes, young people are pressured or even duped by friends into stealing for them. A criminal defense attorney can help sort that out.
Of course, if the evidence against you is strong and you want to take responsibility, a Denver theft lawyer can give you the best chance of a resolution that avoids jail and protects your criminal record. In some cases, you can help your outcome by repaying the victim as soon as possible (but get receipts). The problem is that by doing so you may incriminate yourself, so you should always consult with a criminal lawyer first.