Petty theft/ larceny in Colorado law under 18-4-401 (2)(b) C.R.S. is defined when someone intentionally steals another's property valued at less than $50. Petty theft is a Colorado petty offense that can be punished by:
- up to $500 in fines and/or up to 6 months in jail; and
- victim restitution payments in Colorado
Examples of petty larceny offenses may include:
- the Colorado offense of shoplifting,
- the Colorado offense of passing bad checks, or
- theft by the Colorado offense of extortion
It may be possible to negotiate the charge down to a lesser petty offense or even a full dismissal as part of a Colorado plea deal. Common petty theft defenses include:
- the defendant was the only owner of the property,
- the defendant did not deliberately steal the property, or
- the police's search and seizure in Colorado was unconstitutional
To help you better understand Colorado's petty larceny law, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss the following, below:
People commit petty theft in violation of section 18-4-401 of the Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S.) when they intentionally and unlawfully take property worth less than $50 that does not belong to them. Petty theft can take several forms, such as:
- stealing goods from a store,
- promising to pay for a product and never paying, or
- failing to return a borrowed item within seventy-two (72) hours of the agreed-upon return time
Note that people can be convicted of theft if they take property that they co-own, and they fail to get the co-owners' authorization.1
Theft is a Colorado class 1 petty offense if the value of the item(s) is less than fifty dollars ($50). In addition to restitution to the victim, consequences of Colorado petty offense theft can include:
- A fine of up to $500, and/or
- six (6) months in jail2
If a person allegedly commits multiple thefts within a six (6)-month period, they may be aggregated into a single count of theft. In such a case, the value for purposes of sentencing is the aggregate value of all the items allegedly taken.3
Note that the judge (or jury) ultimately determines the stolen items' value using a reasoanble basis, such as standard market value.4
Also note it is automatically a Colorado felony to pick-pocket or to steal from a disabled or elderly person, even if the stolen items are worth less than $50.5 Learn more about Colorado felony theft laws.
2.1. Attempted theft
An unsuccessful attempted crime in Colorado is punished as the next less serious class of offense: Therefore, attempted petty theft would be charged as a class 2 petty offense instead of a class 1 petty offense. The penalty would be a small fine.6
2.2. Penalties for misdemeanor and felony theft
Theft of anything worth at least $50 but less than $2,000 is a Colorado misdemeanor. Consequences of misdemeanor theft range from:
- probation to eighteen (18) months in jail, and/or
- a fine of up to $5,000.
Theft of anything worth $2,000 or more is a felony. Depending on the value of the item(s), Colorado felony theft can be punished by:
- one to twenty-four (1 - 24) years in prison, and/or
- a fine of $1,000 to $1,000,000.6
The best defense to Colorado theft charges will depend on the facts of the case and the type of property allegedly stolen. However, common defenses to petty theft often include:
- the defendant was the only owner of the property,
- the defendant did not deliberately steal the property, or
- the police's search was unconstitutional
Even though petty larceny is a minor offense, it still looks bad on criminal records. Therefore, anyone facing these charges is advised to hire an attorney to try to fight for a dismissal.
3.1. Defendant was the only owner of the property
It is not possible for a person to steal something that that belongs only to him/her. Typical evidence that can prove ownership may include:
- sales receipts
- title documents
If the defense attorney can demonstrate that the defendant was the only owner of the property allegedly taken, the larceny charges should be dismissed.
3.2. Defendant did not deliberately steal the property
Larceny is an intent offense in Colorado.7 Because of this, defendants are not guilty of theft if they genuinely did not know they took another person's property:
Example: Haley is listening to her iPhone while shopping for lipstick. She is so engrossed in the music that she absentmindedly walks out of the store without paying. Of course Haley owes the store the price of the lipstick, but she should not be convicted of larceny. Since she genuinely forgot to pay because her mind was somewhere else, she committed no crime.
In every criminal case, the D.A. has the burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Intent to steal is often hard for prosecutors to prove precisely because it requires getting inside of the defendant's head.
3.3. Police's search was unconstitutional
The Fourth Amendment is very clear that the police may not conduct searches without a search warrant -- or without a good reason to forego getting a warrant. Whenever the police may have committed an illegal search, the defense attorney can file a motion to suppress evidence in Colorado:
This motion argues to the court that the police's misconduct tainted the evidence they found. If the court grants the motion and disregards the evidence, then the prosecution may lose the case due to insufficient evidence.
Colorado has a number of crimes that are often charged along with theft. In many cases, a defendant can be punished for both theft and these related crimes:
- Deceptive sales - 18-4-401 S.R.S.
- Theft of Trade Secrets - 18–4–408 C.R.S.
- Aggravated Motor Vehicle Theft - 18–4–409 C.R.S.
- Identity Theft -- 18–5–902. C.R.S.
- Theft of Sound Recordings
- Theft of Cable Television Service
- Robbery – 18-4-301, C.R.S.
- Burglary – 18-4-202-18-4-204 C.R.S.
In particular, defense attorneys often see theft charged with robbery -- when items are taken directly from an alleged victim, and/or burglary -- when someone is charged with breaking into a building or automobile for the purpose of stealing something.
Call us for help…
Our Colorado criminal defense attorneys see clients as more than just a list of charges. Every client has a name; every client has a story. We are here to see to it that the prosecutor and, if necessary, the jury know your side.
If you or someone you know has been charged with a violation of Colorado's theft laws, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. We will respond to you quickly so you can take the first steps to gaining your freedom and re-establishing your good name.
You can reach us by filling out the confidential form on this page, or by phoning us at our Denver home office:
Colorado Legal Defense Group
1400 16th Street ste. 400
16 Market Square
Denver CO 80202
Colorado Revised Statutes Title 18 Criminal Code § 18-4-401 Theft
(1) A person commits theft when he or she knowingly obtains, retains, or exercises control over anything of value of another without authorization or by threat or deception; or receives, loans money by pawn or pledge on, or disposes of anything of value or belonging to another that he or she knows or believes to have been stolen, and:
(a) Intends to deprive the other person permanently of the use or benefit of the thing of value;
(b) Knowingly uses, conceals, or abandons the thing of value in such manner as to deprive the other person permanently of its use or benefit;
(c) Uses, conceals, or abandons the thing of value intending that such use, concealment, or abandonment will deprive the other person permanently of its use or benefit;
(d) Demands any consideration to which he or she is not legally entitled as a condition of restoring the thing of value to the other person; or
(e) Knowingly retains the thing of value more than seventy-two hours after the agreed-upon time of return in any lease or hire agreement.
(1.5) For the purposes of this section, a thing of value is that of “another” if anyone other than the defendant has a possessory or proprietary interest therein.
(2) Theft is:
(a) Deleted by Laws 2007, Ch. 384, § 3, eff. July 1, 2007.
(b) A class 1 petty offense if the value of the thing involved is less than fifty dollars;
(b.5) Repealed by Laws 2013, Ch. 373, § 1, eff. June 5, 2013.
(c) A class 3 misdemeanor if the value of the thing involved is fifty dollars or more but less than three hundred dollars;
(d) A class 2 misdemeanor if the value of the thing involved is three hundred dollars or more but less than seven hundred fifty dollars;
(e) A class 1 misdemeanor if the value of the thing involved is seven hundred fifty dollars or more but less than two thousand dollars;
(f) A class 6 felony if the value of the thing involved is two thousand dollars or more but less than five thousand dollars;
(g) A class 5 felony if the value of the thing involved is five thousand dollars or more but less than twenty thousand dollars;
(h) A class 4 felony if the value of the thing involved is twenty thousand dollars or more but less than one hundred thousand dollars;
(i) A class 3 felony if the value of the thing involved is one hundred thousand dollars or more but less than one million dollars; and
(j) A class 2 felony if the value of the thing involved is one million dollars or more.
(3), (3.1) Repealed by Laws 1977, H.B.1574, § 9.
(4)(a) When a person commits theft twice or more within a period of six months, two or more of the thefts may be aggregated and charged in a single count, in which event the thefts so aggregated and charged shall constitute a single offense, the penalty for which shall be based on the aggregate value of the things involved, pursuant to subsection (2) of this section.
(b) When a person commits theft twice or more against the same person pursuant to one scheme or course of conduct, the thefts may be aggregated and charged in a single count, in which event they shall constitute a single offense, the penalty for which shall be based on the aggregate value of the things involved, pursuant to subsection (2) of this section.
(5) Theft from the person of another by means other than the use of force, threat, or intimidation is a class 5 felony without regard to the value of the thing taken.
(6) In every indictment or information charging a violation of this section, it shall be sufficient to allege that, on or about a day certain, the defendant committed the crime of theft by unlawfully taking a thing or things of value of a person or persons named in the indictment or information. The prosecuting attorney shall at the request of the defendant provide a bill of particulars.
(7) Repealed by Laws 1993, H.B.93-1088, § 42, eff. July 1, 1993.
(8) A municipality shall have concurrent power to prohibit theft, by ordinance, where the value of the thing involved is less than one thousand dollars.
(9)(a) If a person is convicted of or pleads guilty or nolo contendere to theft by deception and the underlying factual basis of the case involves the mortgage lending process, a minimum fine of the amount of pecuniary harm resulting from the theft shall be mandatory, in addition to any other penalty the court may impose.
(b) A court shall not accept a plea of guilty or nolo contendere to another offense from a person charged with a violation of this section that involves the mortgage lending process unless the plea agreement contains an order of restitution in accordance with part 6 of article 1.3 of this title that compensates the victim for any costs to the victim caused by the offense.
(c) The district attorneys and the attorney general have concurrent jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute a violation of this section that involves making false statements or filing or facilitating the use of a document known to contain a false statement or material omission relied upon by another person in the mortgage lending process.
(d) Documents involved in the mortgage lending process include, but are not limited to, uniform residential loan applications or other loan applications; appraisal reports; HUD-1 settlement statements; supporting personal documentation for loan applications such as W-2 forms, verifications of income and employment, bank statements, tax returns, and payroll stubs; and any required disclosures.
(e) For the purposes of this subsection (9):
(I) “Mortgage lending process” means the process through which a person seeks or obtains a residential mortgage loan, including, without limitation, solicitation, application, or origination; negotiation of terms; third-party provider services; underwriting; signing and closing; funding of the loan; and perfecting and releasing the mortgage.
(II) “Residential mortgage loan” means a loan or agreement to extend credit, made to a person and secured by a mortgage or lien on residential real property, including, but not limited to, the refinancing or renewal of a loan secured by residential real property.
(III) “Residential real property” means real property used as a residence and containing no more than four families housed separately.
People v. Rishel, 50 P.3d 938 (2002) ("The Hearing Board found that respondent's knowingly exercising control over the funds when authorization had been withdrawn, his demand that funds be paid by cashier's check rather than historically acceptable personal checks, his failure to respond to communication efforts from the third parties, and his delivery of one set of tickets to another party rather than the rightful owner provided sufficient evidence to find that respondent knew that his use of the funds was practically certain to result in permanently depriving the third parties of their property, thus constituting theft in violation of § 18-4-401(1)(b), 6 C.R.S. (2000) and a violation of Colo. RPC 8.4(b).")
- 18-6.5-102 (2) C.R.S.
- 18-4-401 (4)(a) C.R.S.; Roberts v. People, 2009, 203 P.3d 513, rehearing denied.
- People v. Leonard, App.1979, 608 P.2d 832, 43 Colo.App. 471.
- 18-6.5-103 (5) & (7.5). C.R.S.
- 8-2-101 C.R.S.
- 18-4-401 C.R.S.