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No, there is no looting statute in the state of Colorado. Instead, suspected looters may instead face charges of theft or robbery depending on the circumstances. Looting typically occurs during natural disasters, a state of emergency, and rioting.
Sometimes people loot during otherwise peaceful protests. A recent example from throughout the United States are the demonstrations against President Trump and police brutality, particularly the Minneapolis police officers causing the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.
In an effort to prevent looting and vandalism and to promote public safety, police often impose a curfew. In extreme cases, the National Guard may be called to keep order.
What is theft in Colorado?
Theft (a.k.a larceny) is intentionally stealing goods. Alleged shoplifters typically get charged with theft. The penalties for stealing turn on the value of the items stolen.
8 to 24 years in prison (with 5 years mandatory parole) and/or
$5,000 to $1,000,000 in fines
Four potential defenses to theft criminal charges are:
The defendant took the items by accident (no criminal intent);
The defendant was falsely accused or framed;
The property belonged to the defendant; or
The defendant was misidentified as the thief, which is typical in looting situations where there are often large crowds of people, and it is difficult to prove who was a thief and who was a peaceful protestor.
Another possible defense is that the police department committed misconduct. For instance, criminal defense lawyers can ask the court can suppress any evidence found through an illegal police search and seizure. This may leave prosecutors with too weak a case to bring looting charges.
What is robbery in Colorado?
Always a felony charge in Colorado, robbery is a more serious crime than theft. That is because robbery involves taking property from someone by use of force, threats, or intimidation. The classic example is holding up a cashier with a gun or a knife. In contrast, most shoplifting crimes are done in secret with no violence.
Robbery without a deadly weapon is a class 4 felony. The punishment is:
2 to 6 years in prison (with 3 years mandatory parole), and/or
A fine of $2,000 to $500,000 in fines.
There is mandatory prison sentence of no less than 4 years (and possibly as much as 12) if the victim is an “at-risk” elder (person over 70) or is a disabled person.
Meanwhile, robbery while using a deadly weapon – called aggravated robbery – is a class 3 felony as well as an extraordinary risk crime The sentence is:
4 to 16 years in prison (with 5 years mandatory parole), and/or
$3,000 to $$750,000 in fines.
However, the maximum prison sentence becomes 32 years (with a mandatory minimum of 10 years) if during the robbery – or while fleeing from the scene – the suspect either:
knowingly injures or strikes a person with a deadly weapon, or
by force, threats or intimidation, places a person in reasonable fear of death or bodily harm.
Two potential defenses to robbery charges are:
The defendant was falsely accused or misidentified, and law enforcement officers arrested the wrong person (many robbers wear face masks, so they are difficult to identify), or
The defendant used no force or threats (this is a partial defense – if the defendant stole, he/she could still be charged with theft)
As long as the district attorney has insufficient evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the charge should be dismissed.
Call our law firm for help.
Our office is based in Denver, but every day our DUI and criminal defense attorneys practice throughout the state including in Boulder and Colorado Springs. We are known and respected by the Denver District Attorney, Denver Police, and prosecutors and officers in all counties. We are offering payment plans and discount rates during the COVID-19 / coronavirus pandemic.
Prior to March 1, 2022, looting of less than $50 was a class 1 petty offense carrying up to 6 months in jail and/or up to $500 in fines; looting of $50 to less than $300 was a class 3 misdemeanor, carrying up to 6 months in jail and/or $50 to $750 in fines; looting of $300 to less than $750 was a class 2 misdemeanor, carrying 3 to 12 months in jail and/or $250 to $1,000 in fines; and looting of $750 to less than $2,000 was a class 1 misdemeanor, carrying 6 to 18 months in jail and/or $500 to $5,000 in fines. SB21-271.
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.