In Colorado, the crime of shoplifting is defined as intentionally taking and stealing goods from a retail establishment. The law presumes that you intend to shoplift if you conceal unpurchased items inside of a store. The penalties for shoplifting depend on the value of the items stolen.
Stealing less than $300 worth of goods is a petty offense:
- Up to 10 days in jail time, and/or
- Up to $300 in fines
Stealing at least $300 but less than $2,000 worth of goods is a misdemeanor:
- Up to 364 days in jail, and/or
- Up to $1,000 in fines
Stealing items worth $2,000 or more is a felony:
- 1 to 24 years in Colorado State Prison, and/or
- $1,000 to $1,000,000 in fines
You will also be ordered to pay restitution to the store.
In this article, our law firm’s Denver Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss:
- 1. What is Colorado’s legal definition of shoplifting?
- 2. What are the penalties?
- 3. What are common defenses?
- 4. How long does shoplifting stay on your record in Colorado?
- 5. What are the immigration consequences?
- 6. What other charges could I face?
1. What is Colorado’s legal definition of shoplifting?
Shoplifting is knowingly taking merchandise from a store without paying. You must intend to permanently deprive the owner of the merchandise, and you do not have the permission of the store owner to take the goods.1
Under Colorado theft laws, shoplifting crimes include such acts as:
- Physically taking items from a shop without paying for them;
- Returning an item to a store that you did not buy in order to get money or credit (“fraudulent returns”); and/or
- Altering labels, price tags, or packaging to pay less money – or nothing – for an item
If you conceal the merchandise, a jury may conclude that you intended to steal:2
Example: A security guard stops Kelly after she leaves a Denver Walmart. The guard saw Kelly holding a new iPhone box under her jacket. Kelly gets accused of shoplifting and is charged with felony theft. She elects to have a jury trial.
At trial, the prosecutor admits video surveillance showing that Kelly hid the iPhone. Kelly argues that she simply forgot to pay. But under Colorado law, the jury can make the reasonable inference that Kelly intended to steal because the iPhone was hidden (“the concealment of goods”).
Had Kelly carried the iPhone box openly when she left Walmart without paying, the jury could not automatically presume she intended to steal. Then Kelly might have an easier time arguing that she simply forgot to pay.
2. What are the penalties?
You may be eligible for a pretrial diversion program in your shoplifting case. This would allow you to avoid getting a conviction. In return, you may have to pay a fine and restitution, take a class, and/or do community service.
Otherwise, Colorado’s punishments for shoplifters depend on the price of the stolen items:
Value of stolen merchandise
Colorado shoplifting penalties (plus restitution)*
|Less than $300 (“petty theft”)||Petty offense:
|$300 to less than $1,000||Class 2 misdemeanor:
|$1,000 to less than $2,000||Class 1 misdemeanor:
|$2,000 to less than $5,000||Class 6 felony:
|$5,000 to less than $20,000||Class 5 felony:
|$20,000 to less than $100,000||Class 4 felony:
|$100,000 to less than $1,000,000||Class 3 felony:
|$1,000,000 or more||Class 2 felony:
|*If you allegedly shoplifted twice or more from the same store, the D.A. may bring one charge for the total value of the items. Or if you allegedly shoplifted more than once in a six-month period, the D.A. may bring one charge for the total value of the items.3|
There is no specific punishment under Colorado criminal law for concealing goods you have not yet purchased.
See our related article, When is theft charged as a felony in Colorado?
3. What are common defenses?
There are various ways to fight Colorado shoplifting charges. Three typical defense strategies that experienced defense attorneys use in these criminal cases are:
- You had no intent to steal. Perhaps you simply forgot to pay. Or perhaps someone else planted the merchandise on you. Or maybe you believed the store owner agreed to let you pay at a later time. If you have an innocent explanation of what happened, the D.A. may dismiss the case.
- No shoplifting occurred. You can show you paid by producing the receipt, eyewitness testimony, or video surveillance footage. Perhaps the cashier forgot to remove the theft detection device. As long as the full price was exchanged for the items, theft charges should be dropped.
- The police performed an illegal search. Law enforcement needs probable cause to perform a search. If the police found the merchandise through an illegal search, then the court may dismiss it as evidence. Then the D.A. may be left with too weak a case to prosecute.
The prosecution always has the burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This is true even if you allegedly hid the merchandise.4 If the defense attorney can show the prosecution’s evidence is inadequate or unreliable, the D.A. may be willing to throw out the case.
4. How long does shoplifting stay on your record in Colorado?
Shoplifting convictions in Colorado stay on your records permanently unless and until they are sealed. All shoplifting convictions may be sealable unless they are for class 2 or class 3 felonies.
Petty offense convictions for theft crimes may be sealed one year after the case ends. Class 2 misdemeanor convictions (as well as class 3 misdemeanor convictions as they existed prior to March 1, 2022) can be sealed two years after the case ends. Class 1 misdemeanor theft convictions or class 4, 5, or 6 felony convictions can be sealed three years after the case ends.
Any case that gets dismissed can be sealed right away.5 Learn about how to get a Colorado criminal record seal.
5. What are the immigration consequences?
Shoplifting is a crime involving moral turpitude. Therefore, theft offenses are deportable. Though if the shoplifting conviction was just a petty offense or class 3 misdemeanor, it is less likely a non-citizen defendant would be deported.6
Aliens facing criminal charges should hire an attorney right away. An attorney may be able to get the charges dismissed or reduced to a non-deportable crime. Learn more about the criminal defense of immigrants.
6. What other charges could I face?
Robbery (CRS 18-4-301 – 303) is knowingly taking anything of value from another person — or in another person’s presence — by the use of force, threats, or intimidation. The classic example is holding up a cashier with a gun.
Robbery is a felony. Depending on the case, penalties include:
- 2 – 48 years in prison, and/or
- $2,000 – $750,000
Burglary (CRS 18-4-202 – 204) is knowingly entering or unlawfully remaining on someone else’s property with the intent to commit a crime. The classic example is sneaking into someone’s home to steal valuables. Burglary can be a misdemeanor or a felony.
6.3. Receiving stolen property
Receiving stolen property (CRS 18-4-404) is punished the same as shoplifting in the state of Colorado.
We create attorney-client relationships throughout the estate of Colorado, including Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs, Greeley, and more. We defend against all types of criminal charges, including DUI. And the initial consultation is free.
In California? Learn about California shoplifting laws (Penal Code 495.5 PC).
In Nevada? Learn about Nevada shoplifting laws (NRS 205.220 & NRS 205.240).
- Colorado Revised Statutes 18-4-401 C.R.S. (theft statute criminal code).
- CRS 18-4-406 (“If any person willfully conceals unpurchased goods, wares, or merchandise owned or held by and offered or displayed for sale by any store or other mercantile establishment…such concealment constitutes prima facie evidence that the person intended to commit the crime of theft.”)
- CRS 18-4-401; see also Halaseh v. People, (2020) CO 35, 463 P.3d 249. Prior to March 1, 2022, theft of less than $50 was a class 1 petty offense carrying up to 6 months in jail and/or up to $500 in fines; theft 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; theft 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 theft 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.
- People in Interest of R.M.D., (Colo. 1992) 829 P.2d 852.
- CRS § 24-72.
- See, e.g., Matter of Jurado-Delgado, (BIA Sept. 28, 2006) 24 I. & N. Dec. 29.