Getting arrested for DUI does not mean you will be convicted. Police misconduct, defective breathalyzers and crime lab mistakes may be enough to get your charges lessened or dismissed. Visit our page on Colorado DUI Laws to learn more.
Auto Theft in Colorado – What are the punishments? [2022 UPDATES IN DESCRIPTION]
Auto theft in Colorado is prosecuted as aggravated motor vehicle theft (CRS 18-4-409). Currently, Colorado has the third highest rate of auto thefts in the nation.1 And many counties have law enforcement task forces in partnership with the Colorado State Patrol to catch and prevent organized auto theft crimes.2
What if I get caught stealing a car in Colorado?
People arrested for allegedly stealing a vehicle in Colorado face charges for either first degree- or second-degree auto theft. First degree aggravated motor vehicle theft is when a person knowingly steals a car without authorization or by threats or deception, and the person also:
Causes $500 or more worth of property damage;
Causes bodily injury to another person;
Alters or disguises the car’s appearance;
Alters or removes the VIN;
Displays different license plates on the vehicle than the ones issued for the vehicle;
Keeps the car for more than 24 hours, or takes it out of Colorado for more than 12 hours; or
Uses the car to commit a crime other than a traffic offense.
Second degree aggravated motor vehicle theft is knowingly stealing a car without authorization or by threats or deception, but none of the above-listed circumstances apply. Therefore, stealing a car but causing only $400 worth of damage or keeping it for only 23 hours would be second degree auto theft – not first.3
What is the penalty for stealing a car in Colorado?
First degree theft of a motor vehicle is always a felony in Colorado. And it carries a 1 year driver’s license revocation. The prison term and fines turn on the value of the vehicle:
4 – 12 years in prison (with 5 years of mandatory parole), and/or
$3,000 – $750,000
But note that a third-time auto theft conviction of any value is always a class 3 felony, punishable by four to 12 years in prison (with five years of mandatory parole), and/or $3,000 to $750,000 in fines.
Meanwhile, aggravated motor vehicle theft in the second degree can be a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the value of the vehicle. And as with first degree auto theft, the DMV will revoke the defendant’s license for one year.
1 – 3 years in prison (with 2 years of mandatory parole), and/or
$1,000 – $100,0004
The legal name for grand theft auto in Colorado is aggravated motor vehicle theft.
What do I do if someone stole my car in Colorado?
People who discover their car has been stolen should first make sure they are safe. The thief may still be in the vicinity and could be armed.
Next, victims of car theft should contact the police and tell them all the stolen vehicle’s identifying information. This includes:
Car make, model, and year
Appearance of the motor vehicle (color and identifying features, such as dents)
License plate number
VIN (vehicle identification number) if possible
After contacting the police, victims should file a claim with their insurance company and notify the Colorado DMV.
If the car was being financed or leased, victims should then notify their lenders or leasing companies. And if the car contained any personal property, victims could file a claim with their home or renters insurance.
Finally, if the stolen car contained credit cards or debit cards, victims should report them stolen and check for unauthorized purchases.
Is auto theft a common crime in Colorado?
Yes. As of 2021, Colorado’s auto theft rate is the third highest in the United States. For every 100,000 people in Colorado, there are about 384 car thefts. Since 2010, auto thefts have increased by 58%.
The most common vehicles being stolen include:
In many cases, car thieves sell the car parts – particularly the catalytic converters.5
Call our Colorado criminal law firm for legal advice. Our criminal defense attorneys offer free consultations in our law offices or over the phone.
Our criminal defense lawyers create attorney client relationships throughout the state of Colorado, including Denver, Greeley, Colorado Springs, Westminster, Douglas County, Arapahoe County, Adams County, Lakewood, Jefferson County, and Aurora. We defend against all criminal charges, from DUI, traffic citations, and theft crimes to drug- and violent offenses.
CRS 18-4-409. Prior to March 1, 2022, second-degree aggravated motor vehicle of less than $1,000 carried 6 to 18 months in jail and/or up to $500 to $5,000 in fines; and second-degree aggravated motor vehicle theft of $1,000 to less than $20,000 was a class 6 felony. SB21-271.
See note 2.
About the Author
Michael Becker has over a quarter-century's worth of experience as an attorney and more than 100 trials under his belt. He is a sought-after legal commentator and is licensed to practice law in Colorado, Nevada, California, and Florida.