In the state of Colorado, “property crimes” include crimes such as theft, burglary, robbery, and receiving stolen property. The penalties for property crime convictions can be mild or severe depending on the specific crime and the value of the property that was stolen or damaged. This is where a Denver theft crimes attorney can help.

In 2017, shoplifting crimes constituted more than twenty percent of the thefts in Colorado. Statewide, more than 22,000 incidents of shoplifting were reported in 2017.

WHAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO KNOW ABOUT SHOPLIFTING?

You are about to learn what constitutes shoplifting according to Colorado law. You will also find out why even innocent shoppers need to know the law in order to avoid legal trouble.

But first things first. The most important thing to know about shoplifting in Colorado is where to get the legal help that you will very much need if you are accused of a shoplifting crime.

If you are accused of shoplifting or any property crime in Colorado – theft, auto theft, burglary, robbery, or receiving stolen property – you must be represented by a reliable lawyer. You’ll need to speak about your case immediately with an experienced criminal defense attorney.

HOW IS SHOPLIFTING DEFINED BY COLORADO LAW?

What can constitute shoplifting in Colorado? Obviously, if a teenager slips a tube of lipstick into her purse and leaves a store without paying for it, she has committed shoplifting. But fraudulent returns also constitute shoplifting. Here is how that works.

Let’s say that your sister in another state sent you a shirt as a Christmas present. It doesn’t fit, but you know a store in Denver that sells the same shirt, so you innocently presume that you can take the shirt to the Denver store and ask for a refund or store credit.

But according to Colorado law, that’s shoplifting.

Colorado law

One form of shoplifting in this state is returning an item to a retailer who did not sell you the item and trying to get store credit or cash. Shoplifting in Colorado also includes tampering with labels or price tags and switching merchandise from one package or container to another.

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO CONVICT SOMEONE OF A SHOPLIFTING CHARGE?

Precisely what does a Colorado prosecutor have to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” in order to convict a defendant who has been accused of shoplifting? A prosecutor must prove that:

1. The defendant intended to deprive another party of property – permanently.

2. The defendant intentionally took, kept, or took control of another party’s property without permission.

3. To take possession of the shoplifted property, the defendant threatened, deceived, or otherwise acted without authorization.

WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR SHOPLIFTING IN COLORADO?

The criminal penalties for shoplifting convictions in this state are based on the value of the item or items that were shoplifted:

1. Shoplifting items valued below $50 is a Class 1 petty offense punishable upon conviction with six months in jail and a $500 fine.

2. Shoplifting items valued between $50 and $300 is a Class 3 misdemeanor punishable upon conviction with six months in jail and a $750 fine.

3. Shoplifting items valued between $300 and $750 is a Class 2 misdemeanor punishable upon conviction with a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

shoplifting penalties

4. Shoplifting items valued between $750 and $2,000 is a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable upon conviction with eighteen months in jail and a $5,000 fine.

5. Shoplifting items valued above $2,000 is a Class 6, 5, 4, or 3 felony depending on the precise value of the shoplifted item or items. The maximum penalty for a Class 3 felony shoplifting conviction in Colorado is twelve years in prison and a $750,000 fine.

If you have previously been convicted of a shoplifting crime or another theft charge in Colorado, a harsher sentence can be imposed for a second or subsequent conviction.

HOW WILL A DEFENSE ATTORNEY DEFEND YOU AGAINST A SHOPLIFTING CHARGE?

As mentioned previously, if you are charged with shoplifting, the state must prove its case against you beyond a reasonable doubt. That is not always easy. A number of potential defenses might be offered to help your case.

If you genuinely believed that the item was already yours, if it was mistakenly in your bag or purse, or if you accidentally walked out of a store with an item, your lawyer may be able to defend you by claiming that you did not mean to steal anything and that you lacked any criminal intent.

If you were misidentified for someone else, you may need to provide evidence that you were somewhere else when the shoplifting took place – in other words, you may need an alibi.

HOW WILL A CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER HELP YOU?

However, taking a shoplifting case to trial and offering one of these defenses is usually a final resort. In most cases, your lawyer will try to have the charge dismissed before a trial begins.

dismissed charges

If that is not possible, you will probably be allowed to accept a plea agreement at any point in the legal process. Do not, however, agree to any plea arrangement until you have discussed the offer with a skilled Denver criminal defense attorney.

WHAT IS PRETRIAL DIVERSION?

First-time shoplifting offenders may qualify for pretrial diversion. A diversion program usually combines community service, counseling, payment of restitution, and probation, but when a defendant successfully completes a diversion program, the shoplifting charge will be dismissed.

pretrial diversion

Pretrial diversion is designed to penalize first offenders justly without imposing on them a criminal record that might impair their ability to be productive members of society.

WHY IS A GOOD ATTORNEY’S HELP SO IMPERATIVE?

If you are facing any kind of theft charge in the greater Denver area or anywhere in the state, it is imperative for you to speak at once with a reputable theft defense lawyer.

After evaluating your case, your defense attorney will explain your legal options and will develop the best possible defense strategy on your behalf.

Do not take any chances with your future and your freedom. If you are facing a shoplifting charge or any theft charge in Colorado, a good defense lawyer’s help is your right. In fact, your future could depend on it.

By: Dan Murphy

Denver criminal defense lawyer Daniel M. Murphy provides clients in the Denver area with aggressive and sympathetic legal representation. He graduated from the University of Denver Law School in 1994 and worked as a public defender before starting his own practice in 1996. He has defended clients accused of the most difficult criminal and alcohol-related charges. He also serves as a Moot Court Judge for Denver-area law students who rely on his mentorship.