Altering, damaging, or modifying any part of a motor vehicle without the consent of the owner is considered tampering. Tampering with a motor vehicle is a criminal offense in Colorado. Depending on the damage involved, tampering can be charged as a felony, resulting in jail time and expensive fines.
In this article, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers will address:
- 1. What is tampering with a motor vehicle in Colorado?
- 2. How does the prosecutor prove I am guilty of tampering with a motor vehicle?
- 3. What are the penalties for motor vehicle tampering?
- 4. What are defenses to tampering charges?
- 5. Related Offenses
Also see our general article on tampering laws in Colorado.
Under Colorado law, altering, adjusting, or damaging a motor vehicle with criminal intent is a criminal offense. This could involve “chopping” or removing parts of a stolen car, or intentionally damaging a car so it is no longer driveable. Tampering with a motor vehicle includes:
- Tightening or loosening any bolt, bracket, wire, or screw;
- Shifting or changing gears or brakes;
- Scratching, marking, or otherwise damaging a motor vehicle or vehicle part; or
- Adding any substance to the gas tank, carburetor, radiator, or another part of the vehicle.
Aiding or assisting another in the commission of tampering with a motor vehicle is also a criminal offense, with the same potential penalties as the person who committed the crime.
In order for the prosecutor to prove you are guilty of tampering with a motor vehicle, they have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of the following elements:
- With criminal intent;
- Tightens or loosens any bolt, bracket, wire, screw, or other fastening contained in, contained on, or forming a part of such motor vehicle; or
- Shifts or changes the gears or brakes of such motor vehicle; or
- Scratches, mars, marks, or otherwise damages such motor vehicle or any part thereof; or
- Adds any substance or liquid to the gas tank, carburetor, oil, radiator, or any other part of such motor vehicle; or
- Aids, abets, or assists in the commission or attempted commission of any such unlawful act.
If the prosecutor cannot prove each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt, then they did not prove the defendant is guilty of motor vehicle tampering.
The penalties for tampering with a motor vehicle depend on the value of damage involved and whether anyone was injured due to tampering. If the damage is less than $1,000, tampering with a motor vehicle is a class 1 misdemeanor.1 The maximum penalty for a class 1 misdemeanor in Colorado is up to 18 months in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.
If the damage is $1,000 or more but less than $20,000, tampering with a motor vehicle is a class 5 felony.2 The penalty for a class 5 felony in Colorado is between 1 to 3 years in prison and up to $100,000 in fines. A class 5 felony also has a mandatory 2 year parole period. Felony convictions may also prevent you from owning a gun and make it harder to find a job in the future.
If the damage is $20,000 or more, or tampering causes bodily injury to a person, it may be charged as a class 3 felony.3 The penalty for a class 3 felony in Colorado is from 4 to 12 years in prison, and a fine of up to $750,000.
There are a number of possible defenses to charges of motor vehicle tampering. Your Colorado criminal defense attorney will investigate your case and examine all the evidence to identify your best defenses. Possible defenses may include:
- Lack of criminal intent,
- The motor vehicle owner knew and consented to what was done,
- You didn't know the motor vehicle was being tampered with,
- You reasonably believed the person consenting to the work was the motor vehicle owner.
Tampering with a motor vehicle in Colorado may be related to the offenses of tampering with an ignition interlock device (IID) or altering a VIN number. Altering a VIN number and tampering with a motor vehicle may be charged with other vehicle theft offenses. However, tampering with an IID is usually related to avoiding a probation violation for driving under the influence of alcohol.
Altering or removing a vehicle identification number (VIN) to misrepresent the identity of a motor vehicle is a criminal offense in Colorado. Removing or altering a VIN is a class 5 felony offense in Colorado, punishable by up to 3 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
Drivers who have been lost their license because of a DUI may be able to get their license reinstated with an ignition interlock device on their car. This allows them to drive as long as they can provide alcohol-free breath samples into the device. However, tampering with the IID is a class 1 misdemeanor in Colorado and can result in up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Aggravated motor vehicle theft (18-4-409 C.R.S.) is usually a felony. It is either first-degree or second-degree depending on the case.
Call us for help...
If you were accused of tampering with a motor vehicle, please contact us at Colorado Legal Defense Group. Our caring Colorado criminal defense lawyers have many years of experience representing clients who have been charged with motor vehicle tampering or theft. We are among the best Colorado criminal defense attorneys to call. Contact us today for a free consultation by phone or in-person or in our Denver law office.
- C.R.S. 42-5-103(2)(a)
- C.R.S. 42-5-103(2)(b)
- C.R.S. 42-5-103(2)(c)