While it can be tempting to view shoplifting as a juvenile and inconsequential infraction, the state of Colorado can pursue jail time and enforce significant fines for those convicted of shoplifting. Colorado shoplifting laws also allow merchants to sue shoplifters for various damages in civil court.
Shoplifting charges can be quite serious, and the consequences can be equally so. If you are facing shoplifting charges in Colorado, an experienced defense attorney can help ensure the best possible outcome for you.
Colorado Shoplifting Laws
Colorado shoplifting laws are listed under Colorado Revised Statutes 18-4-401 and 18-4-403. Here they fall under the general legal umbrella of theft.
Colorado defines theft, and therefore shoplifting as:
- Knowingly obtaining, retaining, or exercising control over someone else’s property
- Acting with the intent to permanently deprive another person or entity of their property
- Acting by threat, by deception, or without authorization to obtain the property
Penalties will vary based on the value of the stolen goods. These can be quite severe if the stolen property is particularly valuable.
The state of Colorado allows merchants or store owners to detain and question individuals they have reason to believe are concealing merchandise or have already taken un-purchased merchandise from the store. These merchants also had permission to sue adults and emancipated minors in civil court. They can also sue the parents or legal guardians of un-emancipated minors.
Theft (Shoplifting) By Concealment of Non Purchased Goods
Section 18-4-406 of the Colorado Revised Statutes also provides that any person who conceals goods or merchandise, whether in the store or outside, is guilty of theft by concealment of goods. Though there is no specific penalty for this under Colorado shoplifting laws, it can be used to prove there was the intent to steal the goods in question. This can lead to various petty theft charges.
In Colorado, you don’t have to leave the premises to be charged with shoplifting. Merchants may detain you simply by concealing goods. If the merchant has just cause to believe you intended to shoplift, you may be detained legally in the state of Colorado.
Criminal Penalties for Shoplifting in Colorado
There are both criminal and civil penalties you can incur if you are convicted of a shoplifting offense under Colorado shoplifting laws. The severity of the shoplifting penalties in Colorado depends on the value of the goods in question:
- For goods valued at less than $500: penalties could include between three months and a one-year maximum in jail, and/or fines between $250 and $1000. This is a class 2 misdemeanor.
- For items valued at between $500 and $1000: consequences range between 6 and 18 months in jail, and/or fines between $500 and $5000. This would be classified as a class 1 misdemeanor.
- Theft of items valued between $1000 and $20,000: is a class 4 felony and could result in 2 to 6 years of jail time, and fines totaling between $2000 and $500,000.
- For items valued over $20,000: which is a class 3 felony, penalties include 4 and 12 years of jail time and/or fines totaling anywhere between $3000 and $750,000.
Colorado shoplifting laws also include potential penalties for tampering with theft detection devices or possessing tools used to tamper with theft detection devices. If you are found to be taking an alarm off of an item inside a store or even bring tools used to do so into the store, you can catch a shoplifting charge in the state of Colorado.
This charge is classified as a class 1 misdemeanor and can result in:
- Between 6 and 18 months in jail
- Fines totaling between $500 and $5000
Prior shoplifting charges in Colorado could elevate your sentence. Two or more of the same charge in a six-month period could result in felony charges, depending on the value of the items in question.
Colorado shoplifting laws enable some people accused of first-time or low-level shoplifting to complete a pretrial diversion program. This will often be a few hours of classes about the laws surrounding shoplifting. Or, it could include a few hours of community service.
If an accused person completes the program requirements, any criminal charges will be charged. This option is not available in every county in Colorado, though it is available in most.
Civil Penalties for Shoplifting in Colorado
The civil penalties for adults and emancipated minors convicted of shoplifting, as well as the parents or legal guardians of non-emancipated minors, include damages done to the store or merchandise, plus a penalty between $100 and $250.
Defenses for Shoplifting Charges in Colorado
To reiterate, in order to convict you of shoplifting, the prosecution must prove that you:
- Knowingly obtained, retained, or exercised control over someone else’s property
- Acted with the intent to permanently deprive another person or entity of their property
- Acted by threat, by deception, or without authorization to obtain the property
There are a few potential defenses that may apply to your situation, including:
- Lack of intent: If you believed the item already belonged to you, it was put mistakenly into your bag, you may be able to use this claim as a defense to shoplifting.
- Lack of evidence: Your case may be dropped or you could be found innocent if the prosecution does not have enough evidence that you shoplifted the items in question.
- Mental illness: Those who suffer from the mental disorder of kleptomania, a compulsion to steal things, have a potential defense to shoplifting. There are other mental disorders that will enable you to use this defense, but kleptomania is the most common. In this case, a judge would more than likely send you to a rehabilitation program rather than incarcerate you.
- Mistaken identity: If the prosecution has video or photo evidence and you have a solid alibi, it could be argued you have been mistaken for the person in the photo.
- Entrapment: If you were forced against your will to shoplift, this defense may work for you.
It is important to remember that these defenses, more so, going to trial at all, is a very last resort for shoplifting cases. In most cases, the best outcome for you will result from your attorney negotiating with prosecutors for an appropriate plea deal.
This is why it is important to hire an experienced and aggressive defense attorney. This attorney will have the necessary established relationships with judges and prosecutors to negotiate a deal for you. If you are a first-time offender, and the value of the item in question was very low, a Denver shoplifting attorney will be able to help you avoid jail time and potentially have your charges dropped or dismissed.
Contact Attorney Jeff Weeden
Since 2005, Jeffrey L. Weeden has practiced criminal defense law in Colorado. He’s helped countless clients protect their rights and freedoms as a respected, caring, hard-nosed criminal defense attorney. Mr. Weeden has represented clients throughout Colorado, including Adams, Arapahoe, Aurora, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, Gilpin, Jefferson, Larimer, Morgan, Weld counties, and beyond.
If you or someone you know has been charged with or accused of shoplifting, Act Now. Call Denver Criminal Attorney Jeff Weeden, and let him build a solid defense against these potentially serious charges.