February 2, 2023
Many people take the act of shoplifting lightly – it’s considered by many to be a frivolous and victimless crime. However, any and all shoplifting charges should be taken seriously, especially in states like ours, where no legal distinction is made between shoplifting and other forms of theft.
If you’re facing Colorado shoplifting charges, it’s very important to understand how shoplifting laws work in Colorado. Therefore, we’ve put together a guide covering the basics of Colorado shoplifting, which should answer many of the frequently asked questions we hear from our clients who are facing charges.
Below, we’re going to cover the specific Colorado laws surrounding shoplifting, criminal and civil penalties you could face if convicted, and potential options such as pretrial diversion programs and plea bargaining.
How Colorado Shoplifting Laws Work
In Colorado, all theft offenses – including shoplifting – are covered under the general theft statue. The charges and penalties for theft are based on the value of the property involved.
In Colorado, merchants are allowed to detain and question individuals if store employees or security have reason to believe that a shopper has set off an alarm, concealed unpaid merchandise, or carried away unpaid merchandise. Merchants can also sue shoplifters in a civil suit.
Colorado Shoplifting: Criminal Sentencing and Penalties
As mentioned above, shoplifting in Colorado is sentenced and penalized based on the value of the merchandise allegedly shoplifted.
You can expect the following criminal penalties if convicted of shoplifting:
- <$500: Class 2 misdemeanor; 3-12 months in jail and $250-$1,000 in fines
- $500-$1,000: Class 1 misdemeanor; 6-18 months in jail and $500-$5,000 in fines
- $1,000-$20,000: Class 4 felony; 2-6 years in jail and $2,000-$500,000 in fines
- >$20,000: Class 3 felony; 4-12 years in jail and $3,000-$750,000 in fines
- Tampering with theft detection devices and/or possessing tools used to tamper: Class 1 misdemeanor; 6-18 months in jail and $500-$5,000 in fines
Civil Penalties for Colorado Shoplifting
Shoplifters will be held civilly liable to the merchant for the value of the shoplifted goods, plus a penalty between $100 and $250.
Many times, you will receive a civil demand letter from the merchant demanding payment. We suggest that you speak to your defense attorney prior to making any payments or otherwise responding to these letters. Your defense attorney will be able to advise you on how best to proceed.
Pretrial Diversion and Plea Bargaining in Colorado
Many counties in Colorado offer pretrial diversion programs to certain defendants accused of shoplifting, particularly for first-time offenders. If the defendant completes the program requirements, which generally include paying restitution, performing community service, and completing counseling, the charges will be dropped.
If diversion programs are not an option, it may also be possible to negotiate a plea deal with the prosecution. The terms of plea braining are left to the discretion of prosecutors, who may reduce criminal charges or sentencing in exchange for a guilty plea.
Common Shoplifting Defenses to Colorado Charges
Depending on the circumstances of the alleged shoplifting offense, a number of shoplifting defense strategies may be used to help your case. Your criminal attorney will ask for details regarding the offense in question, and use this information to develop the best possible defense strategy.
Generally, shoplifting defenses focus on proving that you did not intentionally carry away unpurchased goods with the intent of not paying for them. This could include an explanation as to why you concealed the goods, proof of your intention to pay, or receipts for other goods purchased from the merchant.
About the Author:
Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been designated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers and has been awarded both the Avvo Client’s Choice Award and Avvo Top Attorney designation, evidencing his reputation for his exemplary criminal and DUI defense work and high moral standards.