Colorado Misdemeanor Theft Laws

Misdemeanor theft / larceny in Colorado is defined when someone intentionally steals another's property valued from $50 to less than $2,000. The punishment for misdemeanor theft depends on the worth of the money or goods stolen:

Price of stolen property

Type of Colorado misdemeanor and penalties

$50 to less than $300

class 3 misdemeanor in Colorado

  • up to 6 months in jail and/or
  • $50 - $750 in fines

$300 to less than $750

class 2 misdemeanor in Colorado

  • 3 – 12 months in jail and/or
  • $250 - $1,000 in fines

$750 to less than $2,000

class 1 misdemeanor in Colorado

  • 6 – 18 months in jail and/or
  • $500 - $5,000 in fines

The judge may also order the defendant to pay victim restitution in Colorado. Additionally, defendants may be able to serve probation in Colorado in lieu of incarceration as part of a Colorado plea deal.

Common examples of misdemeanor larceny offenses may include:

Depending on the case, defendants may be able to fight their theft charges by arguing either:

  1. the property belonged solely to the defendant,
  2. the defendant did not intentionally take the property, or
  3. the police committed misconduct

In this article, our Denver Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss the following misdemeanor theft topics:

Also see our articles on petty theft in Colorado and felony theft in Colorado.

gavel
Larceny of anything worth at least $50 but less than $2,000 is a Colorado misdemeanor offense.

1. When is theft a misdemeanor in Colorado?

Misdemeanor theft (a.k.a. larceny) in Colorado law occurs when someone steals another's property valued from $50 to less than $2,000.

Shoplifting is one of the most common types of larceny, but many different scenarios qualify as theft under section 18-4-401 of the Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S.). These include:

  • taking another's property under the guise of borrowing it but with no intention of returning it
  • taking another's property through deception, such as promising to pay for a good or service but never paying
  • taking a loan and purposely not paying it back within 72 hours of the agreed-upon time to return it

Note that a person can be convicted of stealing property he/she co-owns if the person does not get authorization from the co-owner(s) first.1

2. What are the penalties?

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Most misdemeanor crimes are probation-eligible.

Theft of anything worth over $50 but less than $2,000 is a misdemeanor in Colorado. Consequences of misdemeanor theft range from:

  • probation to eighteen (18) months in jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000, and
  • restitution payment to the victim

Predictably, judges are more likely to grant probation instead of jail to defendants with no criminal records.2

2.1. Sentencing ranges

The specific penalty range for misdemeanor larceny in Colorado turns on the value of the property allegedly stolen.

If defendants allegedly committed multiple thefts within a six (6)-month period, prosecutors may add together the values of all the stolen items and charge the defendant with just one theft count.3 Note that courts are supposed to determine value on a reasonable basis and not pure speculation.4

Also note it is automatically a felony to pick-pocket or to steal from a disabled or elderly person, even if the stolen items are worth less than $2,000. Learn more about Colorado felony theft laws.

2.1.1. $50-$299.99: class 3 misdemeanor

Theft of property worth at least $50 but less than $300 is a class 3 misdemeanor in Colorado. The sentence is:

  • up to six (6) months in jail and/or a fine of $50 to $750, and
  • restitution payment to the victim

Depending on the case, the judge may grant probation instead of jail.

2.1.2. $300-$749.99: class 2 misdemeanor

Theft of property worth at least $300 but less than $750 is a class 2 misdemeanor in Colorado. The sentence is:

  • three to twelve (3 - 12) months in jail and/or a fine of $250 to $1,000, and
  • restitution payment to the victim

Depending on the case, the judge may grant probation instead of jail.

2.1.3. $750-$1,999.99: class 1 misdemeanor

Theft of property worth at least $750 but less than $2,000 is a class 1 misdemeanor in Colorado. The sentence is:

  • six to eighteen (6 - 18) months in jail and/or a fine of $500 to $5,000, and
  • restitution payment to the victim

Depending on the case, the judge may grant probation instead of jail.5

2.2. Penalties for attempts

Unsuccessful attempts to steal property are prosecuted as the next less serious class of offense.6

Attempted misdemeanor larceny crime

Type of crime and penalties

class 3 misdemeanor ($50 to less than $300 in property)

class 1 petty offense in Colorado

  • up to 6 months in jail and/or
  • up to $500 in fines, and
  • victim restitution

class 2 misdemeanor ($300 to less than $750 in property)

class 1 misdemeanor

  • Up to 6 months in jail and/or
  • $50 - $750 in fines, and
  • victim restitution

class 1 misdemeanor ($750 to less than $2,000 in property)

class 2 misdemeanor

  • 3 – 12 months in jail and/or
  • $250 - $1,000 in fines, and
  • victim restitution

Learn more about Colorado criminal attempts.

2.3. Penalties for petty theft and felony theft

cartoon of thief
Felony theft in Colorado comprises stealing $2,000 or more.

Stealing less than $50 worth of property is a class 1 petty offense, carrying:

  • six (6) months in jail and/or a fine of up to $500, and
  • restitution payment to the victim

The judge may grant probation in lieu of jail for Colorado petty offenses.

Meanwhile, theft of anything worth $2,000 or more is a Colorado felony. Depending on the value of the item(s), Colorado felony theft can be punished by:

  • one to twenty-four (1 - 24) years in Colorado State Prison and/or fine of $1,000 to $1,000,000, and
  • restitution payment to the victim

Depending on the case, the judge may grant probation in lieu of prison.7

3. What are common defenses to misdemeanor theft?

The most effective defense to Colorado theft charges always turns on the unique circumstances of the case and what kind of property is at issue. Some typical defense arguments are:

  1. The defendant was the sole owner of the property,
  2. The defendant did not knowingly take the property, or
  3. The police committed misconduct

It also may be possible to get larceny charges reduced by showing that the property is actually less valuable than the prosecution claimed it was in the complaint.

3.1. Defendant was the sole owner of the property

surveillance camera
The D.A. has the burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

It is impossible for someone to steal something that belongs solely to him/her. Evidence of ownership may include:

  • sales receipts
  • title documents
  • contracts

If the defense attorney can show that the defendant was the sole owner of the property at issue, the theft charges should be dropped.

3.2. Defendant had no intent to take the property

Theft is an intent crime in Colorado.8 Therefore, people are not criminally liable for theft if they genuinely did not realize they took the property:

Example: Janice is rushing to get to work and grabs her roommate Tara's iPad by mistake. Later Tara sees that her iPad is gone and reports it stolen. But since Janice did not realize the iPad was not hers, Janice committed no crime. Instead, she would just be civilly obligated to return the iPad.

Intent is often difficult for prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt because there is no way to see what is going inside the defendant's head. As long as there insufficient evidence to show that the defendant had intent to permanently deprive the victim of his/her property, a conviction cannot stand.

3.3. Police committed misconduct

Police have strict rules to follow when conducting searches and seizures under Colorado law. If law enforcement crossed the line by failing to get a Colorado search warrant -- or not having a lawful reason to search without a warrant -- then the defendant may have legal recourse:

The defense attorney can file a motion to suppress evidence in Colorado, which explains to the judge that the state's evidence was tainted by the unlawful search. If the judge agrees and disregards the tainted evidence, the D.A. may drop the case for lack of proof.

4. Are there related offenses?

It is common for larceny suspects to face prosecution for theft as well as related crimes, such as:

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Call our Colorado criminal defense attorneys at 303-222-0330 for a free consultation today.

Call us for help…

Arrested in Colorado for misdemeanor larceny? Contact our Denver criminal defense attorneys for a FREE consultation. We will do everything in pursuit of the best resolution possible of your matter. 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
4047 Tejon Street
Denver, CO 80211
(303) 222-0330

Arrested in California? See our articles on California petty theft laws and California grand theft laws.

Arrested in Nevada? See our articles on Nevada petit larceny laws and Nevada grand larceny laws.


Legal references:

  1. Colorado Revised Statutes Title 18 Criminal Code § 18-4-401 Theft

  2. 18-4-401 C.R.S.(2)(c),(d), & (e).
  3. 18-4-401 (4)(a) C.R.S.; Roberts v. People, 203 P.3d 513 (2009) rehearing denied.
  4. People v. Leonard, 608 P.2d 832, 43 Colo.App. 471 (1979).
  5. 18-4-401 C.R.S.(2)(c),(d), & (e).
  6. 18-2-101 C.R.S.
  7. 18-4-401 C.R.S.(2)(b),(f),(g),(h),(i) & (j).
  8. 18-4-401 C.R.S.

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