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Understanding the Difference Between Petty and Felony Theft Charges in Colorado

August 15, 2023 – David W. Foley – Criminal Defense, Theft

felony theft

Have you been accused of theft in Colorado involving an item of low value or a high-value asset? Do you know the difference between petty and felony theft charges? Understanding this distinction is crucial as these charges can range from a petty theft charge involving property valued under $300 to felony theft charges concerning property valued in the thousands or tens of thousands. 

Knowing the nature of your charges can significantly influence your legal outcome, defense strategy, and long-term life implications. So, what exactly separates petty theft from felony theft? Let’s delve into it.

If you face a petty or felony theft charge in Colorado, we can help you understand your charges and create a strong defense strategy. Call The Foley Law Firm at (719) 757-1182 to schedule your FREE consultation with our theft defense lawyers. Let us help you put your life back together after a theft charge!

Defining Theft

Colorado theft law defines theft as the act of taking someone else’s property without their permission and with the intention to permanently deprive them of it. The theft can occur through direct means, like physically taking an item, or indirect means, like deception or threat.

This could include stealing something as small as a pack of gum or as large as a car or a home. The value of the property stolen is a key factor in determining the level of charges.

As with any legal issue, if you’re facing theft charges, we highly recommend seeking legal advice from a skilled Colorado Springs criminal attorney to navigate the complexities of the law.

It’s important to note that theft, as we’re discussing it here, is distinct from other property crimes like burglary, which involves unlawful entry into a property with intent to commit a crime, or aggravated robbery, which is a violent crime involving the taking of property directly from a person, often using force or intimidation. 

While these offenses are serious and carry their own legal consequences, our focus in this blog is on understanding the specifics of petty and felony theft charges in Colorado.

What is Petty Theft?

Petty theft, often referred to as petty larceny, typically involves stolen property valued at under $300. Examples of petty theft include theft of property and check fraud.  

Petty theft is typically charged as a petty offense. First-time offenders are often subject to relatively light penalties: fines of up to $300 and up to 10 days in jail.  However, repeat offenders may face longer jail sentences and higher fines.

What is Felony Theft?

Felony theft, also known as grand theft, is a serious criminal charge that generally applies when the value of the property or services stolen exceeds a certain amount set by state law. 

In Colorado, felony theft is classified into different levels, each carrying potential penalties of prison time and steep fines as indicated below:

Class 6 Felony Theft

You’ll be charged with a Class 6 felony theft if the value of the stolen property or services is $2,000 or more but less than $5,000. It carries a potential prison sentence of 12 to 18 months and a fine of $1,000 to $100,000.

Class 5 Felony Theft

If the value of the stolen property or services is $5,000 or more but less than $20,000, it is considered a Class 5 felony theft. A conviction may lead to a prison sentence of 1 to 3 years and a fine of $1,000 to $100,000.

Class 4 Felony Theft

When the stolen property or services are valued at $20,000 or more but less than $100,000, it falls under a Class 4 felony theft. The penalties include a potential prison sentence of 2 to 6 years and a fine of $2,000 to $500,000.

Class 3 Felony Theft

If the value of the stolen property or services is $100,000 or more but less than $1,000,000, it is categorized as a Class 3 felony theft. The conviction may result in a prison sentence of 4 to 12 years and a fine of $3,000 to $750,000.

Class 2 Felony Theft

The most severe theft charge, Class 2 felony theft, applies when the value of the stolen property or services is $1,000,000 or more. A conviction could lead to a prison sentence of 8 to 24 years and a fine of $5,000 to $1,000,000.

New Law Regarding Motor Vehicle Theft in Colorado

As of July 1, 2023, there’s been a significant change in Colorado law related to motor vehicle thefts, among other new laws that have taken effect in the state. The new law, Senate Bill 23-097, alters the classification and penalties for these offenses. Previously, penalties for auto theft were largely determined by the value of the stolen vehicle, but that’s no longer the case.

The law changes the terminology from “aggravated motor vehicle theft” to “motor vehicle theft,” creating a distinct classification system for these offenses. Now, motor vehicle theft is divided into first, second, and third-degree offenses, with each carrying its own set of penalties. 

Specifically, first-degree motor vehicle theft is a class 3 felony, second-degree motor vehicle theft is a class 4 felony, and third-degree motor vehicle theft is a class 5 felony.

This law also introduces a new offense: “unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.” This is a class 1 misdemeanor for the first offense, and it escalates to a class 5 felony for second or subsequent offenses.

It’s important to keep in mind these changes, as motor vehicle theft charges now depend on the nature of the offense, not the value of the stolen vehicle.

What About Misdemeanor Theft?

Now that we’ve discussed the specifics and implications of both petty and felony theft, it’s important not to overlook misdemeanor theft in Colorado. This form of theft falls between petty and felony theft, defined by the value of the stolen property or services, and carries its own set of potential penalties.

When the value of stolen items is between $300 and $1,000, the theft is typically considered a Class 2 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 120 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $750.

If the value of the stolen goods is higher, between $1,000 and $2,000, it escalates to a Class 1 misdemeanor. Penalties for a Class 1 misdemeanor theft may include jail time from 364 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

The Long-Term Consequences of a Theft Conviction

Whether it’s a petty theft, a misdemeanor, or a felony, a conviction for any of these offenses can have long-lasting impacts that go beyond immediate penalties such as prison time and fines. 

If convicted, you may face difficulties obtaining employment, securing housing, or acquiring certain licenses due to the presence of a criminal record.

For felony theft charges, these effects can be even more significant, given the severity of the crime. Remember, if you’re facing felony theft charges, seeking representation from an experienced Colorado Springs criminal attorney is crucial to help mitigate these potential consequences.

Factors Influencing the Degree of Theft Charges

While the value of the stolen property or services is a primary determinant in classifying a theft crime in Colorado, it’s not the only factors influencing the degree of theft charges. 

You need to be aware of other factors that could potentially escalate the severity of the charge and subsequent penalties. These factors include:

Repeat Offenses

If you have prior theft convictions, especially recent ones, you may face harsher charges and sentences. Colorado law typically consider’s your criminal history when determining the severity of a theft charge and its corresponding penalties.

Type of Property

Certain types of property are protected under specific statutes. For example, theft of firearms, regardless of their value, may lead to felony charges due to the potential danger they pose in the wrong hands.

Method of Theft

How the property was stolen can also influence charges. For instance, theft involving a deadly weapon, force, or threats may escalate to robbery, a more serious charge.

Victim Impact

If the theft significantly impacts the victim, especially if they’re particularly vulnerable (such as the elderly or disabled), this may also influence the degree of theft charges.

Start Your Defense Journey with The Foley Law Firm

Have you been charged under Colorado theft laws in Colorado Springs? At The Foley Law Firm, our team is dedicated to fiercely advocating for your rights and building a solid defense strategy. 

We understand that facing theft charges can be stressful, but remember—you’re not alone in this journey. Let us assist you in reclaiming control over your life and fighting for a fair outcome.

As your neighbors, we serve the greater Colorado Springs area, as well as El Paso County and the Pikes Peak region. To start your journey towards a robust defense, call us at (719) 757-1182 or contact us online for a FREE consultation with our experienced theft defense lawyers.

Let us help you put your life back together as we work diligently toward the most favorable resolution possible.

Copyright© 2023. The Foley Law Firm. All Rights Reserved.

The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.

The Foley Law Firm
222 East Costilla Street
Colorado Springs, CO 80903
(719) 757-1182

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