CRS 18-4-204 - Third-Degree Burglary Laws in Colorado

CRS 18-4-204 is the Colorado burglary law that defines the crime of third-degree burglary.

Third-degree burglary is committed when a person:

  • with the intent to commit a crime
  • enters or breaks into any:
    • vault,
    • safe,
    • cash register,
    • coin vending machine,
    • product dispenser,
    • money depository,
    • safety deposit box,
    • coin telephone,
    • coin box, or
    • another apparatus or equipment whether or not coin operated.

Degrees of the Crime

Burglary is divided into three categories:

  1. first-degree burglary (CRS 18-4-202)
  2. second-degree burglary (CRS 18-4-203)
  3. third-degree burglary (CRS 18-4-204)

Third-degree burglary is the least serious form of the offense, but it is still a felony. Potential prison time, high fines, and other impacts of a felony conviction can result.

Below, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss the following frequently asked questions about third-degree burglary for Colorado residents:

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Third-degree burglary is the least serious form of the offense, but it is still a felony.

1. What is third-degree burglary?

Third-degree burglary under CRS 18-4-204 is a serious felony offense that can significantly affect your constitutional rights and freedoms.

Third-degree burglary is committed when a person:

  • with the intent to commit a crime
  • enters or breaks into any:
    • vault,
    • safe,
    • cash register,
    • coin vending machine,
    • product dispenser,
    • money depository,
    • safety deposit box,
    • coin telephone,
    • coin box, or
    • another apparatus or equipment whether or not coin operated.4

Notice these are not crimes against people but a specific type of property and typically involve the intent to commit a theft within these types of property.

A person can be convicted of this crime for remaining in a building, even when that person originally had permission to enter it, so long as he or she had the intent before entering the building to commit a third-degree burglary offense.

Example: Paul enters a Walgreens after it is closed, jumps the counter, and breaks into the cash register. Because he entered the building after hours (unlawfully) and broke into a cash register, Paul can be charged with this degree of the offense.

2. What is burglary?

Burglary in Colorado is separated into three elements:

  1. a person knowingly
  2. entered or unlawfully remained on another person's property,
  3. with the intent to commit any crime (other than trespass) while on the property.1

2.1 What does "knowingly" mean?

A person commits an offense knowingly if he or she:

  • conducts him or herself in a way or under a circumstance prohibited by a Colorado burglary law, or
  • is aware that the conduct is practically certain to cause a result prohibited by the law.2

A person must commit each element of the offense knowingly in order to be guilty of the crime.

2.2 Do I have to "break in" to enter or unlawfully remain?

No. While many people imagine a break-in late at night as a burglary, it is not necessary the burglary transpires as such. A person could simply walk right through the front door without permission in order to commit a crime.3

Example: Tristan enters a convenience store by walking through the front door during open hours. He hides in a back room and waits for the store to close. After hours, Tristan breaks into the cash registers and the safe and steals the money he finds. Although he didn't "break in," Tristan will still be charged with third-degree burglary.

2.3 Do I have to already have the intent to commit a crime?

Yes. It is not enough that a person formed the intent to commit the crime after entering the premises. If the intent was formed to commit the crime after the person entered, he or she is not guilty of burglary.

3. What other types of apparatus or equipment counts towards this offense?

It is not only the types of items listed above that can lead to a charge of third-degree burglary. Others items include but are not limited to:

  • parking lot collection boxes,5
  • telephone booths,
  • slot machines,
  • school lockers,
  • glass display cases,6 and
  • gym lockers secured with personal combination locks.7

If the item is a locked piece of equipment designed to protect valuables, it will likely fit this definition and can be the basis for a third-degree felony charge.

Example: Hector breaks into a local casino with the intent to steal money. He breaks into the slot machines, cash registers, and even hits the parking meters on the way out from his crime spree. He can be charged with third-degree burglary.

4. What are the penalties of this offense?

Third-degree burglary is usually a class 5 felony unless certain factors apply. A class 5 felony level offense carries the following possible penalties:

  • 1-3 years in prison (with 2 years mandatory parole); and/or
  • a fine of $1,000-$100,000.

However, the offense becomes a Colorado class 4 felony if:

  • the objective of the burglary is the
  • theft of a controlled substance
  • lawfully kept in or upon the property.

Penalties for third-degree burglary involving a controlled substance can include:

  • 2-6 years in prison (with 3 years mandatory parole); and/or
  • a fine of $2,000-$500,000.

5. What defenses can I raise in my case?

To defend a case against third-degree burglary, a person can raise defenses including but not limited to:

  • the suspect was lawfully on the property;
  • the suspect did not know he or she was unlawfully on the property;
  • the container was not the type intended for the statute;
  • intent to commit the crime was not formed until after the suspect was already on the premises; or
  • police misconduct occurred during the case.

Never assume that just because you are charged with a crime you will be found guilty of it. Defenses can protect your freedoms and keep you out of prison in many cases.

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For questions about third-degree burglary or to confidentially discuss your case with one of our skilled Colorado criminal defense attorneys, do not hesitate to contact us.

We represent clients in and around Denver, Colorado Springs, Aurora, Fort Collins, Lakewood, and several nearby cities.


Legal References:

  1. CRS 18-4-204 (Third-degree burglary).
  2. See CRS 18-1-501(6).
  3. Armintrout v. People, 1993, 864 P.2d 576.
  4. CRS 18-4-204 (Third-degree burglary).
  5. People v. Garcia, App.1989, 784 P.2d 823, certiorari denied.
  6. People v. Geyer, App.1996, 942 P.2d 1297.
  7. People v. Nerud, App.2015, 360 P.3d 201, certiorari denied.

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