Holiday shopping can be extremely stressful, and no one wants their shopping experience to be any more chaotic than it needs to be. Especially if that “chaos” involves being accused of shoplifting.
Not only is it embarrassing and frustrating to be pulled aside by security or store employees and accused, it can be utterly confusing if you don’t understand what you’re supposed to have done wrong.
Worse, if you are convicted of shoplifting – regardless of your actual guilt – the penalties can tack on thousands of dollars to the high prices of holiday gifts and decorations, and possibly even put you behind bars.
That’s why it’s so important to understand what actually counts as shoplifting in our state. Contrary to popular belief, there’s more to it than merely taking items from a store without paying for them. In this post, we’re going to cover those various acts, then detail the penalties you can face, and why you should call a Colorado defense lawyer as soon as possible.
What Counts as “Shoplifting” in Colorado?
We all know the basic definition of shoplifting. It is essentially the same definition as “theft.” If someone tries to control or own property with the intention to deprive the true owner of that property, they have committed theft.
However, Colorado law also states that trying to “conceal” goods in a store that have not been purchased yet “constitutes prima facie evidence that the person intended to commit the crime of theft.” In other words, if you bring your own bag to a store as a “shopping cart,” or hold merchandise in any way that could be confused as “concealment,” you might be facing an uphill battle in court.
That’s just the beginning, too. Any of the following actions could result in theft charges.
Messing with Price Tags
Holiday season sales and chaos can make pricing confusing. Is that shirt really $5, or was it just left in the $5 rack? What tag goes with which hat? It can be easy for tags to get switched and people to make mistakes. Unfortunately, if it appears that you switched price tags or labels to get a good deal, you might be accused of stealing.
Returning Stolen Merchandise
Don’t let a forgetful grandma or a thieving little brother get you in trouble. If you hold onto stolen merchandise, you could be charged. This includes trying to go back to a store and exchange or return a gift that maybe wasn’t your style.
Messing with Theft Detection Devices
The chunky tags and pieces of plastic on clothes in the store can be a pain when you are trying on an outfit, but if you try and remove them, you could be arrested. Colorado prohibits people from “Knowingly deactivating or removing a theft detection device in any store prior to purchase.”
Thankfully, if you were accused of shoplifting for this, prosecutors will have to prove that you knowingly messed with the device with the intention of committing theft.
Manufacturing or Holding a Theft Detection Deactivation Device
Theft detection devices are not always easy to remove – they can’t be ripped off clothes without making a big tear or they contain nasty ink that can stain your hands and incriminate you.
There are ways to successfully deactivate these devices using tools, though. If you are caught making, selling, distributing, or holding one of these tools in a store, you might find yourself accused of a crime.
How Is Shoplifting Penalized in Colorado?
Offenders who violate theft detection device laws will face class 1 misdemeanor charges. Penalties include up to 18 months behind bars and up to $5,000 in fines.
If the offender shoplifted valuable merchandise, charges will depend on the value of the property involved in the case. Someone who steals (or attempts to steal) over $2,000 worth of merchandise will face felony charges.
Luckily, there are ways to defend against shoplifting and theft charges. It all starts with knowing the law, though.
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.