Shoplifting may seem minor, but a shoplifting conviction can be detrimental. If you wind up with a shoplifting charge, one of the first steps to protecting your rights and reputation is understanding what to expect when you go to court. Generally, if you are caught with an unpaid item, the law presumes you took it intentionally.
We strongly encourage anyone charged with a Colorado shoplifting offense to seek an experienced attorney. In the meantime, here is a little more information about what to know if you are facing a shoplifting charge.
What Is Shoplifting?
Every state’s definition of shoplifting and what constitutes a crime varies. In Colorado, shoplifting is defined as intentionally taking unpaid goods from a retail establishment.
First, a shoplifter must intend to deprive the owner of the merchandise permanently. For example, suppose you intended to take an item outside to show your spouse and bring it back in to pay for it. In that case, you did not have the intent to deprive the shop owner of the merchandise permanently that is needed to justify a shoplifting charge.
Second, you must not have the store owner’s permission to take the items. For instance, suppose the store owner told you that they were giving you the item for free as an act of goodwill. In that case, the prosecutor might not be able to prove you did not have permission to take the goods.
Examples of Shoplifting
Most people understand that taking an item off the shelves, sticking it in their pocket, and walking out without paying is shoplifting. However, other scenarios are also stealing under Colorado law.
For instance, altering or swapping price tags on an item to pay a lower price is considered shoplifting. Another example is returning items you did not purchase from that specific store to obtain a refund of money or merchandise.
Generally, the penalty for shoplifting depends directly on the value of the goods stolen.
There are eight categories classified according to the value of the goods. Here is a simple breakdown.
Petty Theft Offense
A petty theft involves the theft of goods valued at less than $300. A conviction is punishable by up to 10 days in jail and a fine of up to $300.
Class 2 Misdemeanor
A theft classified as a class 2 misdemeanor involves goods valued between $100 and $1,000. It is punishable by up to 120 days in jail and a fine of up to $750.
Class 1 Misdemeanor
A theft that is classified as a class 1 misdemeanor involves goods valued between $1,000 and $2,000. It is punishable by up to 364 days in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.
Class 6 Felony
A theft classified as a class 6 felony involves goods valued between $2,000 and $5,000. It is punishable by 1 to 1.5 years in prison and a fine between $1,000 and $10,0000.
Class 5 Felony
A class 5 felony theft involves goods valued between $5,000 and $20,000. Such a felony is punishable by 1 to 3 years in jail and a fine between $1,000 and $100,000.
Class 4 Felony
A class 4 felony theft involves goods valued between $20,000 and $100,000. It is punishable by 2 to 6 years in prison and a fine between $2,000 and $500,000.
Class 3 Felony
A class 3 felony theft involves goods valued between $100,000 and $1,000,000. This class of theft is punishable by 4 to 12 years in prison and a fine between $3,000 and $750,000.
Class 2 Felony
A class 2 felony is a theft that involves goods valued at $1,000,000 or more. It is punishable by 8 to 24 years in prison and a fine between $5,000 and $1 million.
It is helpful to understand the difference between the potential penalties for each monetary pier. But most Colorado shoplifting offenses are charged on the lower end of the range. In other words, most shoplifters face petty, misdemeanor, or lesser felony charges—many of which will play out in the local municipal courts. The reason for this is simply because the value of most shoplifted goods is four figures or less. There are more shoplifting charges for relatively inexpensive goods than high-ticket items. For instance, most shoplifters steal a shirt or grocery item rather than a Rolex or diamond earrings that might be valued in the tens of thousands.
What Is the Penalty for First-Offense Shoplifting in Colorado?
Because shoplifting is penalized based on the value of the stolen goods, the penalty for a first offense will depend on the value of what you took.
It is important to remember that a first shoplifting offense can quickly become a more severe charge, such as robbery, under certain aggravating circumstances.
Our attorneys can help you understand the difference and exactly what penalties you could face.
How Long Does Shoplifting Stay on Your Record in Colorado?
Your shoplifting conviction will stay on your record indefinitely unless you take the necessary steps to seal your record. After a certain amount of time, most shoplifting convictions are sealable.
Generally, petty theft offenses can be sealed one year from the conclusion of your case. The one year begins from the date you have completed your sentence. You can usually seal Class 2 misdemeanors two years from the conclusion of your case. Class 1 misdemeanors and Class 4, 5, and 6 felony shoplifting convictions can be sealed three years from the conclusion of your sentence.
Shoplifting convictions in Colorado remain on your record unless and until they are sealed. All shoplifting convictions may be sealable unless they are for class 2 or 3 felonies.
Importantly, if you are charged but the case is dismissed, you can seal the arrest record immediately.
Colorado Receiving Stolen Property Law
Notably, it is a crime punishable by the same penalties as shoplifting to receive stolen property. In other words, if you were not the shoplifter but you accepted goods knowing they were stolen, the prosecution could charge you. For instance, if your partner gives you a stolen necklace and you take it knowing he stole it, you can be charged with receiving stolen property.
Get Help From Mark S. Rubinstein, P.C. Today
Whether you made a silly mistake or were down on your luck and took something without paying, rest assured that Mark S. Rubinstein, P.C. is here to help protect your freedom and reputation. With more than 30 years of experience and a focus on criminal defense, we have the skills and resources necessary to advocate for you. Don’t let a shoplifting charge wreak havoc on your life. Contact us to schedule a no-cost, confidential consultation.