Shoplifting can be charged as a felony in Colorado, but not necessarily so. Ultimately, the severity of the charge one can face for shoplifting scales with the value of the allegedly stolen property. Very minor instances of shoplifting may be charged as petty offenses, while severe cases involving high-value property can be charged as felonies.
Shoplifting is a common crime, and there are a number of reasons why it occurs. Wanting an item someone can’t afford is an obvious reason, but there are other reasons such as an addiction to shoplifting (similar to kleptomania) and other impulse disorders that can result in shoplifting.
Whatever the reason, however, getting caught shoplifting or coming under the suspicion of it can result in an arrest and criminal charges. It’s at this point that you should immediately invoke your right to legal counsel and refrain from answering any questions until you’ve consulted with your attorney.
What Is Considered Shoplifting?
Most of us have a general sense of what shoplifting is. At the very least, we could probably imagine an accurate scenario of what it would look like.
Colorado law states that shoplifting occurs whenever someone willfully conceals unpurchased items from a store without the intent to purchase them. So, if the scenario you imagined someone purposely hiding an item in their pocket or purse before attempting to leave the store, that’s pretty much what shoplifting entails.
Penalties for Shoplifting in Colorado
The penalties for shoplifting in Colorado depend on the severity of the charge. As we previously addressed, the severity of the charge itself depends on the value of property allegedly shoplifted.
When the value of the shoplifted items is worth no more than $300, a person may be charged with a petty offense. This is the least serious charge for shoplifting someone can face, and they may be penalties with a fine of up to $300 and/or up to 10 days in jail.
Misdemeanor shoplifting is broken into two classes. The least serious of these is Class 2 misdemeanor shoplifting, which one can face if they are convicted of stealing items valued between $300 and $1,000. Penalties for Class 2 misdemeanor shoplifting can include up to 120 days in jail and/or a $750 fine.
Class 1 misdemeanor shoplifting is much more serious and reserved for offenses involving property valued up to $2,000. If convicted of this charge, one can face up to a year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
There are also multiple levels of felony shoplifting offenses in Colorado:
- Class 6 Felony Shoplifting involves property valued between $2,000 and $5,000. If convicted, one can face between a year and 18 months in prison as well as a fine between $1,000 and $100,000.
- Class 5 Felony Shoplifting involves property valued between $5,000 and $20,000. A conviction for this offense can result in up to three years of prison and/or a fine of up to $100,000.
- Class 4 Felony Shoplifting involves property valued between $20,000 but less than $100,000. A conviction for this offense can be penalized with two to six years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.
- Class 3 Felony Shoplifting involves property valued between $100,000 but less than $1 million. A conviction for this offense can result in a prison sentence of up to 12 years and/or a fine of up to $750,000.
- Class 2 Felony Shoplifting, lastly, involves property valued at or over $1 million. If someone is convicted of this level of shoplifting, they can be sentenced to prison for at least eight years but as long as 24 years. Additionally, they may face a fine of up to $1 million.
It’s important to note that the aforementioned fines would be in addition to any restitution a judge orders a convicted person to pay to their victim.
Also, if before their arrest a person had shoplifted multiple times from the same store or more than once in a six-month period from multiple stores, they may be charged according to the total value of items allegedly taken. This makes it possible to significantly raise the severity of the charges against someone even if they take items of relatively modest value in isolated incidents.
Are There Defenses to Shoplifting?
Shoplifting charges can be fought using three different defense strategies. Each of these strategies is unique and can provide a convincing explanation to counter the allegations against a defendant.
1. No Shoplifting Occurred
Sometimes shoplifting charges can result from critical misunderstandings. If a defendant can demonstrate they didn’t shoplift an item by providing a receipt for it or some other proof that a transaction for the item occurred, they can beat their shoplifting charges.
2. The Defendant Didn’t Intend to Steal
A conviction for shoplifting hinges on the defendant’s intent to take items without paying for them. Using this defense, it can be successfully argued that a defendant forgot to pay for an item that was left in a shopping cart or that the defendant and shopkeeper agreed to conduct a transaction at a later time.
Usually, when there’s a reasonable explanation for the defendant’s innocence and evidence to back it up, the district attorney is inclined to drop the charges, or a judge may dismiss the case.
3. An Illegal Search Occurred
People are Constitutionally protected against unlawful searches and seizures by police. If shoplifting charges arose from an incident involving an illegal search, any items discovered during the search may be dismissed as evidence. This could significantly weaken the prosecution’s case, which may result in a dismissal of charges.
Were You Charged with Shoplifting?
No one wants to deal with the consequences of a shoplifting conviction, especially if the charges are unfounded or the result of a civil rights violation. If you want to fight for a better outcome after getting arrested for shoplifting, you can reach out to The Orr Law Firm for legal assistance.
Learn more about how our attorneys can help you build a defense during a consultation. Reach out to us online now to request yours.