December 9, 2023
Ever taken advantage of a five-finger discount? Slip something extra into the bottom of your cart and never lay it on the conveyer belt? Most Coloradoans can probably say it’s happened once in their lifetime, and it wasn’t that big of a deal.
What they may not know is sometimes it is — and a really big one at that. Being charged with theft in Colorado can mean an array of legal consequences depending on what it is that was stolen and how.
In fact, theft charges can be charged twice! Both as a state and as a federal crime. One Denver man found this out the hard way just how theft can end in a sentence of 39 months in federal prison.
Why? Let’s take a deeper dive into what retail theft looks like according to Colorado law, and how it can escalate this way…
Retail Theft in Colorado
In general, theft means that someone takes something knowingly without the permission of the owner. There are various ways crimes of retail theft can occur and many different penalties involved with each.
In each case, however, the theft must be done willingly. Many offenses can be seen as retail theft, such as:
- Altering a receipt of sale
- Credit card theft
- Taking possession of any stolen property
- Unlawful removal of a theft protection device
As you can see, many different types of offenses can constitute retail theft. In general, these offenses are classified by the value of the property stolen, and that will determine the penalties an offender will face.
Penalties for Retail Theft in Colorado
In Colorado, retail theft charges can range from a misdemeanor offense up to a Class 2 felony. They fall into six categories:
- Petty offenses
- Class 3 Misdemeanors
- Class 2 Misdemeanors
- Class 1 Misdemeanors
- Federal level theft crimes
Learn more about these individual charges and penalty ranges associated with a conviction on each.
These are the least serious of the retail theft crimes, and they are what you typically think of as stealing from a store. If you steal something that is valued at $50 or less, then it can be charged as a petty offense. It is punishable by up to six months in jail.
Class 3 through 1 Misdemeanor Offenses
A Class 3 misdemeanor is applied to cases where the theft is valued between $51 and $299. The penalty is up to six months in jail. A class 2 misdemeanor is charged in cases where the value of the items stolen is determined to be between $300 and $749. It is punishable by up to one year in jail. A Class 1 misdemeanor is charged in cases involving goods stolen with a value between $750 and $1999. It is punishable by up to 18 months in jail.
Felony Retail Theft
A retail theft case is charged as a felony when the value is above $2,000, and charges and penalties increase from there. The value breakout of charges is outlined below. Prison time can run up to 5 years in state prison depending on the details of your case.
- Items valued up to $4999: Class 6 felony
- Items valued between $5000 and $19,999: Class 5 felony
- Items valued between $20,000 and $99,999: Class 4 felony
- Items valued between $100,000 and $999,999: Class 3 felony
- Items valued above $1 million: Class 2 felony
Federal Retail Theft Charges
Some factors in a theft crime can result in an offender being charged with a federal crime. If you steal items that are the property of the federal government, for instance, you can be charged with a federal crime.
If you carry out an offense on a Native American reservation or in international waters, that can be a federal crime as well. The federal government also reserves the right to prosecute those who take stolen property across state lines.
In the case of the recent Colorado man’s charges? He decided to apply that five-finger discount to a handful of guns.
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.