December 1, 2022
The short answer to this question: yes.
Every criminal offense on the books has a corresponding statute of limitations. That is — there is a limit to how long prosecutors have to file charges against someone they believe has committed a crime.
In most cases, this is defined as a certain amount of time from the point a crime occurs. In today’s post, however, we specifically explore the sentencing and penalties for Colorado theft crimes, and the statutes of limitations for each.
Colorado Makes an Exception for Theft Statutes of Limitations
In the eyes of the law, any theft is considered a crime. If you’ve been charged, even for relatively minor infractions, you could face months or years behind bars, and may be left with a criminal record that compromises nearly every aspect of daily life.
What’s more, Colorado makes a special exception for theft regarding its statute of limitations: The statute of limitations for theft crimes in this state begin not on the date the offense is committed, but rather on the date that the theft is discovered.
This means that you could potentially be prosecuted for theft crimes years after the fact if not discovered and reported to police soon after the offense. Let’s take a look at how theft is sentenced and penalized before considering each charge’s statute of limitations.
Colorado Theft Sentencing and Penalties
Under Colorado law, theft is broadly defined as knowingly, and with the intent to deprive anything of value from another person:
- Knowingly obtaining, retaining, or controlling the item; and
- Doing so without authorization, or by deception or threat
Theft laws also apply to anyone that knowingly receives stolen property, or anyone that fails to promptly return property they were only authorized to possess for a limited period of time.
There are many different types of theft, most of which are sentenced and penalized based on the amount of the property stolen. See the breakdown below:
Less than $50: Class 1 Petty Offense; Up to 6 months in jail and up to a $500 fine
$50-$300: Class 3 Misdemeanor; Up to 6 months in jail and up to a $750 fine
$300-$750:Class 2 Misdemeanor; Up to one year in prison and up to a $1,000 fine
$750-$2,000: Class 1 Misdemeanor; Up to 1.5 years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine
$2,000-$5,000: Class 6 Felony; up to 1.4 years in prison and up to a $100,000 fine
$5,000-$20,000: Class 5 Felony; Up to 3 years in prison and up to a $100,000 fine
$20,000-$100,000: Class 4 Felony; Up to 6 years in prison and up to a $500,000 fine
$100,000-$1,000,000:Class 3 Felony; Up to 12 years in prison and up to a $750,000 fine
$1,000,000+: Class 2 Felony; Up to 24 years in prison and up to a $1,000,000 fine
The Statute of Limitations on Colorado Theft Crimes
As we mentioned, for theft crimes, the statute of limitations begins on the date that the theft is discovered. The statutes of limitations are defined by the degree of an offense:
- Petty offenses: 6 months
- Misdemeanors: 18 months
- Felonies: 3 years
So essentially, if you committed an act of theft back in 2015, but the owner of the stolen property (let’s say a ring valued at $750) didn’t realize their jewelry was gone until January 2019, their 18 months started ticking at the beginning of this year.
In this example, you’re still potentially in the hot seat for the missing ring until July of 2020. It’s legal nuances like this that make it so important to be aware of the laws surrounding Colorado theft, and to be proactive if you’re facing theft charges… or think that you could be charged with theft in the future.
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.