What’s the Difference Between Theft and Burglary in Our State?

If you steal, you could be charged with theft.

If you steal, you could be charged with burglary.

What’s the difference?

First off, both charges are very serious. Both burglaries and thefts of over $1,000 are considered felony offenses. The two can also be charged together, along with similar crimes like trespassing.

But theft and burglary are not the same action. Below we will define and explore the penalties for both theft and burglary in Colorado.

All about Colorado Theft

Theft is simply the act of taking property without the owner’s consent. For a theft charge to apply, you have to have an intention to permanently deprive the owner of his or her property. Basically, you’re stealing for keeps.

Shoplifting a few items from the mall may not get you charged with a felony, but you would be surprised at how easily slipping a few items into your bag can add up to $1,000. Charges for theft are based on the amount of property stolen:

  • <$500: Class 2 Misdemeanor, Petty Theft; 3-12 months in prison, $250-$1,000 fine
  • $500-$1,000: Class 1 Misdemeanor, Theft; 6-18 months in prison, $500-$5,000 fine
  • $1,000-$20,000: Class 4 Felony; 2-6 years in prison, minimum parole of 3 years, $2,000-$500,000 fine
  • Over $20,000: Class 3 Felony; 4-12 years in prison, minimum parole of 5 years, $3,000-$750,000 fine

Harsher sentences can be given to defendants who have prior theft convictions. There are also separate charges given to defendants who commit the following acts:

  • Theft of rental property
  • Theft of trade secrets
  • Aggravated motor vehicle theft
  • Theft of medical records
  • Theft of ski lift tickets or coupons
  • Fuel piracy
  • Newspaper theft
  • Theft of sound recordings
  • Theft of cable television services
  • Theft of public transportation services

All about Colorado Burglary

Denver Burglarty LawyerWe usually associate burglars with thieves, but you can actually end up facing burglary charges without committing any theft at all.

By definition, burglary is the act of entering a building or container with the intent to commit a crime. Often, this crime is theft, but it doesn’t have to be. Under the law, it can be any criminal act.

Burglary is classified as three different crimes in Colorado, but is often associated with other crimes and charges. Let’s explore the different types of burglary and different associated penalties below:

Third Degree Burglary. Burglary does not have to involve a house or building. If you force your way into a secure container with the intent to commit a crime, you can be charged with third degree burglary. These containers can include a safe, safety deposit box, vending machine, and so on.

Third degree burglary is considered a class 5 felony in Colorado. As we mentioned above, class 5 felonies are punishable by a minimum of one year in prison and a $1,000 fine. Maximum penalties for class 5 felonies without any aggravating factors include three years in prison and a fine of $100,000.

Second Degree Burglary. If you enter your way into a building with the intent to commit a crime, you can be charged with second degree burglary.

Second degree burglary is considered a class 4 felony; being convicted of a class 4 felony comes with a sentence of 2-6 years in prison and fines between $2,000 and $500,000.

First Degree Burglary/Home Invasion Burglary. If the building you break into is a residence or dwelling, you may face charges of a home invasion burglary; this often prompts a judge to give you a harsher sentence if you are convicted.

You may also face a harsher charge/sentence for burglary if you:

  • Commit assault or threaten anyone
  • Have an explosive or weapon on your person
  • Use or threaten to use a weapon

First degree burglary and home invasion burglaries are considered class 3 felonies in Colorado. This type of conviction comes with a sentence of 4-12 years in prison and fines of between $3,000 and $750,000.

Additional Charges

Denver Theft AttorneyBeing charged with burglary can be quite a headache – there are many aggravating factors and additional charges that can be added to your case if the prosecutor wants to hit you with a harder sentence. The following can all affect your burglary charge:

  • Prior convictions
  • Use of “burglary tools”: if you have everyday items on your person that could appear to be burglary tools, you could face additional charges and a higher sentence
  • Trespassing: entering a property (land, buildings, vehicles) without explicit permission is considered trespassing. Trespassing also classified as three different crimes.

If you are caught stealing property in a building that you forced your way into, you could be charged with both burglary and theft. Most burglary and theft charges are felonies, so a conviction comes with all of the consequences and lifelong penalties of being a convicted felon. But there are so many elements that make up theft and burglary charges that good criminal lawyers employ a variety of defense strategies that can be used to shorten your sentence and prove your innocence.

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.