CO Victims and Legislators Fighting Back against Auto Theft

As long as there have been cars, there have been car thieves. But as technology progresses, so do the thieves that prey upon the vehicles of others.

In Colorado, automobile theft numbers just keep climbing and climbing. In Denver, it has been reported that almost 100 automobiles are stolen each day.

The sheer number of thefts has caused victims to take matters into their own hands, tracking down their own stolen vehicles on social media and going out to intercept the thieves – and putting themselves in harm’s way in the process.

While victims may feel powerless, the state Senate and House are trying their best to fight automobile theft through legislation. Right now, for example, there’s a bill working its way through the statehouse that is meant to address the theft of catalytic converters from cars. These are increasingly being stolen instead of vehicles, because they can be resold.

The bill would enact civil penalties for catalytic converter theft, which can result in increased fines. Meanwhile, another bill would require the buyers of used auto parts to check a database to ensure a part has not been stolen.

With all that is going on, it may seem like the prosecution of car thieves has taken a backseat, but that’s not true at all. The penalties for auto theft in the state are still quite stringent and can lead to major legal trouble. Here’s what you need to know.

Auto Theft Laws in Colorado

The auto theft laws on the books in Colorado apply to many different situations involving the theft of an automobile, so they can be quite complex. However, it’s vital to know that these laws apply very broadly to any type of vehicle, no matter how it is propelled. The only thing that would disqualify it from the law would be if it was on rails – but that’s an entirely different crime.

There are generally two degrees of motor vehicle theft in the state, which are:

First Degree Aggravated Motor Vehicle Theft

This level of auto theft occurs when the car is stolen by the accused, and they:

  • Keep the vehicle for more than one day OR take it out of Colorado for more than one half of a day
  • Use the vehicle to injure another
  • Use the vehicle to commit a crime
  • Cause more than $500 worth of damage with the vehicle
  • Attempt to disguise or alter the vehicle, its license plates, or vehicle identification number

Second Degree Aggravated Motor Vehicle Theft

A person commits second-degree auto theft in Colorado if they steal the vehicle but don’t do any of the other actions associated with first-degree felony auto theft.

The Penalties for Auto Theft in Colorado

If you are found guilty of first-degree auto theft, then it is a felony. However, the value of the vehicle that was determined to be stolen will inform the final penalty. In general, first-degree auto theft will result in up to 12 years behind bars and make the perpetrator responsible for fines of as much as $750,000.

If you are found guilty of second-degree auto theft, then it likely will be a felony. However, that also depends on the value of the vehicle. If it’s a felony, then it can result in up to three years in prison and fines of as much as $100,000.

If a vehicle is worth less than $2,000, and the person accused doesn’t have more than one prior arrest for auto theft, then it can be a misdemeanor. In those cases, the penalty can be up to one year in jail and fines of as much as $1,000.


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.