What to Expect If You Were Hit with a Colorado Shoplifting Charge

If you were recently charged with shoplifting in Colorado, one of the first steps to effectively fighting back and protecting your rights is to understand the law and what you’re up against, and learn what to expect from the process.

In Colorado, the crime of shoplifting has been committed if the following conditions can be proven:

  • The offender intended to permanently deprive another person or entity of property.
  • The offender knowingly obtained, retained, or controlled another’s property without their permission.
  • The offender acted by threat, by deception, or without authorization to obtain the property.

You can also be charged for the unlawful use of a theft detection deactivation device, whether you make, distribute, sell, possess, or use the device for shoplifting.

Shoplifting Penalties in Colorado

Penalties for shoplifting are assessed based on the value of the item or items that are involved in the case. The penalties are as follows:

  • Less than $50 in value: Class 1 petty offense, sentence of up to six months in jail and up to $500 in fines.
  • Between $50 and $300 in value: Class 3 misdemeanor, sentence of up to six months in jail and up to $750 in fines.
  • Between $300 and $750 in value: Class 2 misdemeanor, sentence of up to 12 months in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.
  • Between $750 and $2,000 in value: Class 1 misdemeanor, sentence of up to 18 months in jail and up to $5,000 in fines.
  • Between $2,000 and $5,000 in value: Class 6 felony, sentence of up to 18 months in prison and up to $100,000 in fines.
  • Between $5,000 and $20,000 in value: Class 5 felony, sentence of up to three years in prison and up to $100,000 in fines.
  • Between $20,000 and $100,000 in value: Class 4 felony, sentence of up to six years in prison and up to $500,000 in fines.
  • Between $100,000 and $1 million in value: Class 3 felony, sentence of up to 12 years in prison and up to $750,000 in fines.

Prior charges of shoplifting will enhance your current sentence. If you have two or more of the same charge in six months, you could face felony charges depending on the item value.

What Happens Now That You’ve Been Charged?

If this was your first offense or if the item value was low, you may have received a civil citation instead of being arrested and jailed. A citation means you will need to appear in court at a scheduled date and time. You must appear in court or you could be arrested.

At the first hearing, you may be offered a plea deal. That means you would plead guilty to the charges in exchange for a reduced sentence.

Never do this, however, without first consulting with a skilled Colorado criminal attorney. He or she will be able to look at the facts of your case and let you know whether or not the deal that they are offering is a good one.

Denver Shoplifting Defense

Chances are, you won’t want to take their initial offer, and this is where the help of a good lawyer can be invaluable. With their extensive knowledge of Colorado criminal law, they will be able to advise you on what to say and do, procure helpful evidence and testimony, and craft a viable defense strategy.

Just a few of the possible defenses that may apply in your situation include the following:

Lack of intent

If you thought the item already belonged to you, it was mistakenly in your bag or purse, or you accidently walked out with the item, you may be able to use this defense if you have enough evidence to support your claim.

Lack of evidence

Your case may be dropped or you could be acquitted if the prosecution lacks enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you shoplifted the items in question.

Mental illness

You may suffer from the mental disease known as kleptomania, which drives people to steal compulsively. Other mental illnesses may also qualify you for this defense. If you are able to effectively use it, the judge will be more likely to admit you to a rehabilitation program than incarcerate you.

Mistaken identity

It’s possible that you were mistaken for someone else, as identified by live witnesses or by security camera footage. You will, however, need a solid alibi to use this defense.


If you were forced against your will to shoplift due to threats of harm from someone else, this defense may work for you.

Understand that going to trial and actually using these strategies is a last resort in most cases. Even after that first hearing, you can agree to a plea deal at any point in the process, and your lawyer will likely be negotiating with prosecutors throughout discovery and even while the case is being argued in court.

Colorado Shoplifting Lawyer

If you are a first-time offender and the item value was relatively low, there is a decent likelihood that a knowledgeable attorney will be able to help you avoid jail time, and possibly even get your charges dropped or dismissed. Reach out today for a free case review. 


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.