How You Steal Something Makes a Difference
If you take someone else’s property without their consent in Colorado, prosecutors may bring theft, robbery, or burglary charges against you. While all these offenses involve stealing, “stealing” is not a crime. Instead, stealing is the underlying basis for all three of these distinct criminal offenses. Which charge you may face and the severity of the punishment that awaits you upon conviction largely depends on what you took and how you took it.
Here is what you need to know about the distinctions between burglary charges and the crimes of robbery and theft under Colorado law.
When people think of burglary, they picture someone in a mask and wearing all-black clothing breaking and entering into someone else’s home, property, or business to steal items. That would indeed warrant burglary charges under Colorado law. But you can also face these charges for unauthorized entry onto another person’s property intending to commit a crime (vandalism, assault, arson, etc.) even if you had no intention of stealing anything.
There are three degrees of burglary charges in Colorado:
- Third-degree burglary. A class 5 felony, third-degree burglary involves entering or breaking into a safe, vault, cash register, coin vending machine, product dispenser, safety deposit box, money depository, coin box, coin telephone, or other apparatus intending to commit a crime.
- Second-degree burglary. Second-degree burglary is a class 4 felony that consists of knowingly breaking into or unlawfully remaining in a building or occupied structure intending to commit a crime.
- First-degree burglary. A class 3 felony, first-degree burglary is the most serious burglary charge under Colorado law. The charges include the same elements as second-degree burglary. However, the crime becomes first-degree burglary if it involves assaulting or menacing any person inside the building or structure while entering or fleeing, especially when the menacing occurs with a deadly weapon.
Burglaries in dwellings (as opposed to businesses) can lead to more severe penalties, as can those involving the theft of controlled substances.
Stealing someone else’s property using force, threats, or intimidation brings robbery charges.
Colorado law breaks robbery down into two separate offenses: simple robbery and aggravated robbery. What differentiates robbery from burglary charges or other theft crimes is that it involves using force, threats, or intimidation during the theft. The distinction between simple and aggravated robbery is that the latter involves either using (or threatening to use) a deadly weapon during the theft.
Importantly, you don’t need to actually have a deadly weapon on you to face aggravated robbery charges. Making someone believe you have a deadly weapon (such as holding your hand in your jacket pocket as if you were holding a gun) is enough to support an aggravated robbery charge.
Specifically, you face the possibility of conviction for aggravated robbery if you take someone else’s property without their consent and you:
- are armed with a deadly weapon and have the intent, if resisted, to kill, wound, or maim the person you robbed or any other person; or
- knowingly wound or strike with a deadly weapon the person you robbed or any other person; or
- use threats, force, or intimidation with a deadly weapon to knowingly put the person you robbed or any other person in reasonable fear of bodily injury or death; or
- possess any article used or fashioned in such a way as to lead any person present to reasonably believe it is a deadly weapon, or you verbally or otherwise represent that you have a deadly weapon.
Simple robbery is a class 4 felony which, upon conviction, can result in a two to a six-year prison sentence. The penalties for an aggravated robbery conviction are significantly harsher. Not only is aggravated robbery a class 3 felony, but it is also an “extraordinary risk crime” under Colorado law subject to enhanced sentencing. This means that an aggravated robbery conviction could lead to a sentence of up to 16 years in prison.
You will face theft charges, and not robbery or burglary charges, if you knowingly, without authorization, or by threat or deception obtained, retained, or exercised control over something of value owned or possessed by another person and you:
- intended to deprive the other person of the thing of value permanently;
- knowingly used, concealed, or abandoned the thing of value in such a way as to deprive the other person of its use or benefit permanently;
- used, abandoned, or concealed the thing of value intending to deprive the other person of its use or benefit permanently;
- demanded money or other consideration as a condition of returning or restoring the thing of value; or
- knowingly retained the thing of value for more than 72 hours after the agreed-upon return time in any lease or hire agreement.
The different types of theft charges in Colorado can be either misdemeanors or felonies. How severe the penalties will be upon conviction largely depends on the value of what you stole.
Whether Facing Theft, Robbery or Burglary Charges in Colorado Springs, You Need Experienced Legal Representation
One thing that theft, robbery, and burglary charges all have in common is that to defend yourself against the charges, you need an experienced and tenacious Colorado Springs criminal defense lawyer who specializes in burglary and theft charges.