Steal a Car in CO? It May Not Matter What It’s Worth

Colorado sees a lot of car thefts in a year – and the numbers continue to climb.

This has led lawmakers to reconsider how car theft is penalized here. Currently, how much a car is worth will inform the penalty for the crime upon conviction.

However, lawmakers are now fighting to change the sentencing structure for this crime. They want to enhance the penalties related to car theft that don’t take the vehicle’s value into account. Their reasoning? This property crime is often devastating for those who lose their vehicles, regardless of their worth.

While change may be on the horizon, everyone should be aware of the current car theft sentencing structure. Read on to learn more about this crime and the penalties a person can face if convicted.

What Is Car Theft in Colorado?

Colorado state law defines car theft in two degrees: first and second. When you commit first-degree car theft, you take a car knowingly without authorization or through deception or threats. You must also:

  • cause damage of $500 or more,
  • cause injury to someone else,
  • disguise or alter the appearance of the car in some fashion,
  • take off the vehicle identification number,
  • put different license plates on the car,
  • keep it more than 24 hours in the state (or 12 hours if you leave Colorado),
  • or use the vehicle to commit another crime.

You commit second-degree car theft when you take a car knowingly without permission or through deception or threat but don’t have any of the other circumstances involved in your case listed above.

The Penalties for Car Theft in Colorado

As mentioned above, Minnesota car theft penalties depend on the vehicle’s value. Here are the different degrees:

First-Degree Theft

If you meet the requirements and get charged with first-degree theft, a car worth up to $20,000 is a Class 5 felony. A conviction can result in up to three years behind bars and fines of as much as $100,000.

A car valued at less than $100,000 but more than $20,000 is a Class 4 felony. That is punishable by up to six years of imprisonment and fines of as much as $500,000.

If the car was worth more than $100,000, you face a Class 3 felony. It is punishable by up to 12 years imprisonment and fines of up to $750,000.

Second-Degree Car Theft

As with first-degree car theft, the vehicle’s value plays a major role in the sentence. For example, a car worth less than $2,000 will currently result in a Class 1 misdemeanor, which can put you in jail for up to one year and make you responsible for fines of as much as $1,000.

The Penalties for Car Theft in Colorado

If the car was worth less than $20,000 but more than $2,000, you face a Class 6 felony. That is punishable by up to 18 months behind bars and fines of as much as $100,000.

For vehicles valued at more than $20,000, you can face a Class 5 felony. If convicted, you can be imprisoned for up to three years and be fined as much as $100,000.



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.