If you walk out the door of a store, business, or other retail establishment in Colorado with goods you haven’t paid for, you could find yourself walking straight to jail. Shoplifting is theft, and theft crimes come with serious penalties, especially if what you stole is worth a lot of money or if it isn’t your first shoplifting offense. Beyond jail time, hefty fines, and restitution, a conviction for shoplifting or any other theft crime can haunt you for years to come, reducing employment opportunities and casting doubt on your honesty and trustworthiness.
Just the Intent to Take Something Can Get You Charged with Shoplifting
As noted, shoplifting falls under Colorado’s definition of theft. While walking out that front door without paying for something will get you charged with theft, Colorado law is such that you can also get arrested and charged with shoplifting even before try to leave the store. You will be charged with shoplifting if you knowingly obtained, retained, or exercised control over anything of value in the store without authorization or by threat or deception; and you:
- Intended to deprive the other person permanently of the use or benefit of the thing of value;
- Knowingly used, concealed, or abandoned the thing of value in such manner as to deprive the other person permanently of its use or benefit;
- Used, concealed, or abandoned the thing of value intending to deprive the other person permanently of its use or benefit;
Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-4-401(a).
Simply intending to steal an item is shoplifting. This means if you put a blouse, piece of jewelry, bottle of liquor, or any other item in your purse or under your shirt, you could be charged with shoplifting even before you reach the checkout counter. But prosecutors need to be able to show that you intended to steal the item. Without the intent to steal, there is no crime. That means that someone who accidentally walks out of store with an item because it slipped their mind or they didn’t know they still had it should not be convicted of shoplifting.
This is why having a theft defense attorney when you’re facing shoplifting charges is so crucial. A good theft defense lawyer can effectively fight the prosecutors’ attempts to show that you intended to shoplift. Alternatively, your theft defense lawyer can work worth prosecutors to keep the charges to a minimum or even get you into a pretrial diversion program in lieu of any jail time, especially if it is your first offense or the value of the item is minimal.
Penalties for Colorado Shoplifting
The penalties for a shoplifting conviction in Colorado can be serious, and largely depends on the value of the item stolen:
- Less than $50: a class 1 petty offense that can result in up to 6-months jail time and /or up to a $500 fine.
- $50-$300: a class 3 misdemeanor with up to 6 months in jail and up to $750 in fines upon conviction.
- $300-$750: a class 2 misdemeanor that can lead to up to a year in jail and fines of up to $1,000.
- $750-$2,000: a class 1 misdemeanor with up to 18 months in jail and fines of up to $5,000 upon conviction.
- $2,000-$5,000: a class 6 felony with penalties of between one year and 18 months in state prison followed by one year of parole and up to a $100,000 fine.
- $5,000-$20,000: a class 5 felony which can result in up to three years in state prison and fines in excess of $100,000.
- $20,000- $100,000: a class 4 felony that can lead to up to six years in state prison and massive fines.
Given these potential consequences, you absolutely need to contact a Colorado Springs theft defense lawyer as soon as possible after you’ve been arrested for shoplifting.