Governments around the country have had to quickly adapt to how they handle crime due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In some areas, this means releasing low-level offenders to prevent transmission in jails. In other places, police are reducing arrests of low-level crimes.
In the state of Colorado, one of the ways police are reducing the number of people in jails is by avoiding arrests on low-level shoplifting and theft.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t a line to be crossed. When it comes to stealing from stores, there’s a distinct one between low-level shoplifting offenses and felony retail theft.
What Does the Law Say About Shoplifting in Colorado?
“Knowingly obtains, retains, or exercises control over anything of value of another without authorization or by threat or deception” and that person…
- Intends to deprive them permanently of it; or
- Knowingly uses, conceals, or abandons the stolen items in order to deprive the person of permanent use of it; or
- Demands anything in return before returning or restoring the item of value; or
- Knowingly hangs on to the item for more than 72 hours after the agreed-upon time of return (such as in a lease or hire agreement)
So what happens when a Coloradoan commits theft? Well, penalties by-and-large depend upon the aggregate value* of the item(s) stolen.
(*An aggregate value refers to the total value of all the items stolen during the commission of a single crime or over a particular period of time in a theft operation.)
What Are the Penalties for Theft in Colorado?
At the lowest level, theft is classified as a petty offense. At its highest criminal level, you could be convicted of a Class 2 felony.
For the most part, sentencing graduates steadily as the value of property stolen increases. That said, fines can jump significantly once you cross into felony territory — $100,000 in fines, max! Jail time increasing by years when stolen property exceeds a $5,000 value.
Misdemeanor Penalties by Value of Goods Stolen
- Less than $50 (Class 1 Petty Offense): 6 months in jail plus a $500 fine
- $50 to $300 (Class 3 Misdemeanor): 6 months in jail and a fine ranging $50 to $750
- $300 to $750 (Class 2 Misdemeanor): 3 to 12 months in jail plus a $250 to $1,000 fine
- $750 to $2,000 (Class 1 Misdemeanor): 6 to 18 months in jail and fines ranging $500 to $5,000
Felony Penalties by Value of Goods Stolen
- $2,000 to $5,000 (Class 6 Felony): 12 to 18 months in prison and a $1,000 to $100,000 fine
- $5,000 to $25,000 (Class 5 Felony): 1 to 3 years in prison plus a fine of $1,000 to $100,000
- $25,000 to $100,000 (Class 4 Felony): 2 to 6 years in prison and a $2,000 to $500,000 fine
- $100,000 to $1 million (Class 3 Felony): 4 to 12 years in prison plus $3,000 to $750,000 in fines
- $1 million-plus (Class 2 felony): 8 to 24 years in prison plus a fine ranging $5,000 to $1 million
What’s the Threshold for a Colorado Theft Arrest Amid the Pandemic?
According to recent announcements in Colorado, low-level theft will not be an arrestable offense while the emergency order is in place. So then when does an offender reach the point of arrest amidst a pandemic?
Short Answer: When you commit a felony theft offense.
If the value of items suspected to be stolen exceeds $2,000, the threshold has been met and you should expect the police will arrest you. These new requirements are meant to help lower the population of people in jails around the state.
Theft Offenses Below the $2,000-Value Mark Aren’t Off the Hook
A final note, these new (and temporary) changes don’t equal a free pass on theft crimes valued below $2,000. Those convicted of misdemeanor theft will still be required to attend classes and may be required to pay fines. However, until further notice, misdemeanor theft simply won’t involve a jail sentence unless other factors are present.
About the Author:
Andrew Bryant is a well-respected Colorado Springs criminal attorney who has been practicing in the area for years. A Colorado native, he returned to the home he loves after graduating from the University of Kentucky College of Law. Now, he uses the knowledge he gained as an El Paso County District Attorney to fight tirelessly for his clients’ rights. He is AV-Preeminent rated, has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, and has been named to Best of the Springs lists by The Gazette for years.