Grand Theft Auto — Not Just a Nostalgic Video Game in Colorado

Many people like to fantasize about doing whatever the heck they want and getting away with it – and thanks to games like Grand Theft Auto, those fantasies can be acted through your game console.

With the release of the new Grand Theft Auto 6 possibly just around the corner, fans are chomping at the bit to get to play it for themselves. While pretending to steal cars in a video game may be fun, there’s nothing fun about being charged with real grand theft auto in Colorado. In fact, you can face some truly harsh penalties that will result in your being placed behind bars instead of behind the wheel of a fast car.

Here’s what you need to know about the crime of grand theft auto in Colorado and what penalties you can face if found guilty.

Colorado Motor Theft Laws

Grand theft auto may be a term you hear from time to time in relation to taking a car that doesn’t belong to you. In general, though, the State of Colorado refers to this crime as motor vehicle theft or aggravated motor vehicle theft.

While general theft laws involve depriving the owner of any type of property without permission, there are also more specific theft laws that apply in more particular circumstances — including certain types of property. Motor vehicle theft is one of them. It is identified as taking control of a motor vehicle by force or threat or without the consent of the owner. The goal doesn’t need to be to permanently deprive the owner of their motor vehicle — simply taking it temporarily is enough to be charged with motor vehicle theft.

The definition of a motor vehicle is important to this crime. The law defines it as any vehicle that is propelled by the power of a motor, with the exception of vehicles that run on rails. That means that a motor vehicle isn’t just a car or truck, but also a plane, boat, and so on.

Different Classifications of Motor Vehicle Theft in Denver

In Colorado, the circumstances of the crime and sometimes the value of the motor vehicle are taken into account when deciding what offense level a defendant will be charged with. This breaks down into two offense levels:

Aggravated Motor Vehicle Theft in the First Degree

This is Colorado’s grand theft auto equivalent. A charge of aggravated motor theft can be a Class 3, 4, or 5 felony.

To be charged with this level of offense, the defendant must have:

  • Had the vehicle in their control for 24 hours or more
  • Tried to or did disguise or alter the vehicle’s appearance
  • Altered or attempted to remove or alter a vehicle’s identification number
  • Used the stolen vehicle in the commission of another crime (except for a traffic offense)
  • Caused a minimum of $500 in property damage when in control of the vehicle, including damage to the vehicle itself
  • Caused injury to another when in control of the vehicle
  • Took the vehicle out of the state for more than 12 hours
  • Attached or displaced an unofficial or false license plate to the vehicle

Aggravated Motor Vehicle Theft in the Second Degree

If a vehicle was taken but the above factors for first-degree theft don’t apply, then the crime is likely to be charged as a second-degree offense. This can be either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the value of the vehicle taken.

Penalties for Colorado Motor Vehicle Theft

Penalties for Colorado Motor Vehicle Theft

For aggravated motor vehicle theft in the first degree, the penalties range from a Class 3 felony to a Class 5 felony depending on the value of the vehicle. That means you can spend as little as three years in jail (for a Class 5 felony) or as much as 12 years in jail (for a Class 3). Fines are also applicable, up to $750,000 for a Class 3 felony.

For second-degree motor vehicle theft, the penalty ranges from 18 months for a misdemeanor with up to $5,000 in fines to up to three years in prison and fines up to $100,000 for a Class 5 felony.


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 recognized by countless legal organizations for his exemplary defense work, including Avvo, Best DWI Attorneys, Expertise, Lawyers of Distinction, The National Trial Lawyers, and others. He was also named one of the 10 Best in Client Satisfaction in Colorado by the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys for 2020, and is Lead Counsel rated.