ATMs are literal cash machines that are generally left unattended, so it’s no surprise that they’re a tempting target for both break-ins and financial crimes such as ATM card fraud.
However tempting it may seem to be, if you break into an ATM machine in Colorado, you could find yourself in serious legal trouble, facing burglary or even bank robbery charges. In fact, your defense attorney’s approach to handling the case could determine what type of charge you ultimately face.
We’ve put together a guide covering Colorado third-degree burglary charges, and in the case of ATM break-ins, how distinguishing between robbery and burglary is often a matter of interpretation.
Colorado Third-Degree Burglary
In Colorado, a third-degree burglary occurs when the defendant, with the intent to commit a crime, unlawfully breaks into an apparatus designed to hold or dispense cash or products, including:
- Cash registers
- Product dispensers
- Money depositories
- Coin telephones
- Coin boxes
Third-degree burglary is considered a Class 5 felony, which is punishable by:
- 1-3 years of imprisonment
- Fine of $1,000 – $10,000
The only exception to this would be if the apparatus was designed to hold a controlled substance, in which case it would be a Class 4 felony punishable by 2-6 years’ imprisonment and a fine of $2,000 – $500,000.
ATM Break-in: Bank Robbery or Burglary?
Although the sentencing and penalties for many forms of third-degree burglary are clear, ATM machines become more of a gray area.
Although an ATM is an apparatus which is designed to deposit and dispense money, it is often operated by or even housed on the premises of banks. In this case, breaking into an ATM could potentially be considered bank robbery, as the attempted theft occurred from a bank.
However, for the charge of bank robbery to apply, the defendant must use force or the threat of force. This means that if you break into an unattended ATM and don’t encounter anyone during the alleged offense, you should be charged with third-degree burglary.
However, if you use force or threaten to use force in order to commit an ATM break-in, this could become a robbery charge. For example, if you are confronted by a security guard during an attempted break-in and forcefully resist being apprehended, this activity edges into robbery.
Robbery is a much more serious offense, and you could potentially receive a decades-long prison sentence if convicted. A robbery could also lead to additional violent crime charges such as assault and battery, kidnapping, or even murder.
Defending Yourself Against Third Degree Burglary Charges
Clearly, the circumstances of the alleged offense and interpretation of the laws surrounding third-degree burglary can change the course of an ATM break-in case.
This means that you want an expert defense attorney on your side if you’re accused of breaking into an ATM. A competent attorney can ensure that the prosecution interprets the law fairly, potentially resulting in significantly lesser charges against you.
In some cases, it could be possible to get your case thrown out entirely, or to win an acquittal at trial, completely clearing you of all charges. An ATM break-in is surprisingly hard for the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, and a good attorney will know how to bring the alleged evidence against you into question, casting doubt on your guilt.
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.