Did you know that more and more often individual shoplifting incidents are being combined into a single charge? Did you know if those incidents are combined, the value of items stolen on individual trips can be added into one grand total which will increase the charges and penalties you face?
This article explains why retail theft is under a microscope today, provides a breakdown of charges and a link to penalties, and points out how shoplifting in Colorado can easily lead to you needing to contact a skilled Denver criminal lawyer to help battle the charges against you.
Why Has Prosecuting Shoplifting Become Such a Big Deal in Colorado?
The short answer is that it’s costing too much in merchandise and tax revenue. In recent years, retailers report billions in annual theft losses across the country, and the FBI has estimated losses reaching $50 million in Colorado alone.
This has led financial institutions, industry investigators, analysts, and retailers to partner with law enforcement agencies statewide. The goal of this partnership, the Colorado Organized Retail Crime Alliance (or COORCA), is to work together cracking down on organized retail crime.
Because organized retail crime is so difficult to prosecute, all allegations are now taken seriously. When anyone is apprehended, all possible charges are often being combined in order to maximize penalties – organized crime or not.
What Are the Individual Charges and Penalties for Theft in Colorado?
Below is a breakdown of misdemeanor and felony charges for shoplifting. Once you find where your incident fits best, under the Penalties and Sentences section here you can locate what each charge may cost you in terms of consequences.
Class 3: Merchandise valued at $50 to less than $300
Class 2: Merchandise valued at $300 to less than $750
Class 1: Merchandise valued at $750 to less than $2,000
Class 6: Merchandise valued at $2,000 to less than $5,000
Class 5: Merchandise valued at $5,000 to less than $20,000
Class 4: Merchandise valued at $20,000 to less than $100,000
Class 3: Merchandise valued at $100,000 to less than $1 million
Class 2: Merchandise valued at $1 million or more
How Exactly Would My Penalties Increase If Charges Are Combined?
Exact penalties depend on your specific circumstances, and the right defense team will be able to inform you about your personal situation best.
Just as an example, though, in May The Guardian reported one Knoxville, Tennessee resident had a retail theft charge for return fraud in the amount of $39.57 (less than what amounts to a Class 3 misdemeanor) escalated to a felony charge carrying a sentence of up to 12 years of prison time by combining previous shoplifting and trespassing convictions.
Charges can also be increased due to other factors you may not even realize. For example, involvement with even one other person could lead to allegations of conspiracy, automatically bumping a charge up by one class. Additionally, something seemingly insignificant like using an emergency exit shifts a misdemeanor up to a felony. Any previous theft or related crime convictions can also escalate lower misdemeanors into felony territory, too.
Finally, as we’ve stated before, you may also face civil penalties. Colorado shoplifters are liable for actual damages plus a penalty of $100-$250.
The days of a slap on the wrist are over. Shoplifting can now easily lead to charges more serious than you thought possible. Be informed about the laws in your area, and what combining charges means for prosecution you may currently face.
About the Author:
Since 2005, Jeffrey L. Weeden has been practicing criminal defense law in Colorado and has helped countless clients protect their rights and freedoms as a respected, caring, hard-nosed criminal defense attorney. Over the course of his career, Mr. Weeden’s work has been recognized in numerous ways, including being named to the Top 100 Trial Lawyers list by The National Trial Lawyers, earning a 10.0 “Suberb” Avvo rating, receiving Martindale-Hubbard’s highest peer review rating — AV Preeminent, and being asked to speak on several issues of interest to the legal community. Additionally, he is someone who cares deeply about his community and those in need, and is an active member of a number of professional legal organizations, including the Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center and Law Firm Pro Bono Coordinators.