Property crime refers to a group of illegal activities that involve damaging or stealing another person’s private property. Property crime charges range in severity in Colorado—from petty offenses like shoplifting and vandalism to felonies like arson and armed robbery.
Unlike violent crimes or sex crimes, most property crimes target objects instead of people. Still, many property crimes—like arson and burglary—endanger the lives of victims, and the law takes this into consideration during prosecution.
Shoplifting. Though residential theft may be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of property crimes, shoplifting also falls under this classification, since items sold in a store are the private property of a company.
Officially referred to as retail theft, the penalty for shoplifting depends on the value of the items stolen, as well as the circumstances surrounding the arrest. Shoplifting is usually prosecuted as a misdemeanor, although you could receive a felony if the value of the items stolen exceeds $1,000. Click here to read more about Colorado’s shoplifting laws.
Burglary. Burglary is one of the more serious forms of property crime. A burglary charge asserts that you entered a residence or closed structure with the intent to commit a crime. Burglary isn’t limited to home invaders seeking to steal property. You can also get a burglary charge for illegally entering any building with the alleged intent of committing other crimes, like arson, assault, or vandalism.
Burglary is organized into three degrees of severity, all of which are felonies under Colorado law. 3rd Degree Burglary involves forcing your way into a container—like a safe, vending machine, or storage unit—with the intent to commit a crime (usually theft). 2nd Degree is the invasion of a building. 1st Degree burglary occurs if you break into a building with the intent to commit a crime, and:
- You assault or threaten someone
- You are armed with an explosive
- You use a weapon
- You are armed with and threaten to use a weapon
Trespassing. Trespassing is like a burglary without the criminal intent. Any time you illegally enter or remain on the property of another person, you can be charged with criminal trespass. Trespassing can also apply to illegally entering another person’s vehicle.
Criminal trespassing, like burglary, is classified by first, second, or third degree. These charges range from Class 1 petty offenses to Class 5 felonies, depending on the circumstances.
Criminal Mischief. Criminal mischief is defined as knowingly damaging the property of another (or property owned jointly with another). Probably the best known form of criminal mischief is vandalism. Criminal mischief charges also occur in domestic violence situations when one person damages another’s personal belongings.
The penalties and severity of criminal mischief charges depend on the value of the items damaged. If the value of the items is $1,000 or less, criminal mischief is a misdemeanor charge. If the damage is over $1,000, it is a felony.
Robbery. Robbery is theft using force or the threat of force. Unlike other forms of theft, the victim must be present for a crime to be called a robbery.
Robbery is prosecuted as a felony, and your charge can be enhanced to “aggravated” robbery if you used a deadly weapon, or someone was hurt during the theft.
Arson. Arson can refer to either starting a fire, or using explosives to damage or destroy a building or other property. Arson charges range from 4th to 1st degree. Read more about Colorado arson laws here.
Arson penalties largely depend on the intent behind the damage, as well as any danger the explosion or fire posed to other people. In most situations, arson is a felony in Colorado.
If you have been accused of property crime in Colorado, you could face severe fines and incarceration. Contact an expert criminal defense lawyer—your freedom may depend on it.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.