On March 3rd, the FBI arrested a family of three from Northbrook, IL, for a shoplifting spree allegedly resulting in more than $7 million in stolen property.The Bogdanov family’s cross-country thefts began in Oklahoma and continued through Texas and Louisiana before eventually finishing back in their hometown. Along the way, they went after major companies such as Barnes and Noble and Toys ‘R’ Us and sold their stolen merchandise on eBay, profiting over $4.2 million through their combined accounts.
Although extreme situations like this are not representative of most shoplifting cases, they have still made an impact on the penalties that come with shoplifting charges, especially in places like Colorado, where many stores practice a zero-tolerance shoplifting policy. In fact, two years ago a storeowner from a Colorado liquor store shot shoplifter Bryson Dewberry after he attempted to run out of the store with a bottle of vodka he didn’t pay for. In the following civil lawsuit earlier this year, the jury pegged Dewberry with 65 percent of the blame for his injuries, ultimately deciding that the shoplifting was just cause to shoot and seriously injure the man.
A High Price for a Small Crime
The current shoplifting laws make it difficult for first-time offenders who make one mistake when they happen to be down on their luck. Peter Berlin of the National Association of Shoplifting Prevention (NASP), claims, “…Shoplifting, for millions of our citizens, is simply another maladaptive way of coping with stressful life circumstances…similar to overeating, drinking, drugs or gambling.”
The temptation to shoplift can occur at any time and at any age in life and can easily grow into a spiraling addiction. None of this should excuse the crime, of course. But what some offenders consider unfair is how they cansimplybe thrown into jail with hardened career criminals, and the fact that they are not given the proper help or support they need in order to help restrain themselves from future crimes.
In Colorado, Theft Is Serious, No Matter What
The theft laws of Colorado are complex, but frequently severe. Shoplifting can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor theft depending on the value of the item(s) stolen, and may have lifelong implications for the person charged. Colorado theft is classified in the Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S.) as follows:
- Class 2 misdemeanor, if the value of the item involved is less than $500.
- Class 1 misdemeanor, if the item involved is more than $500 but less than $1,000.
- Class 4 felony, if the value is between $1,000 and $20,000.
- Class 3 felony,if the stolen property is valued at $20,000 or more.
While felonies are punishable by imprisonment in the Colorado Department of Corrections, misdemeanors are punishable incounty jail in several county locations.
When a young person commits this crime, it is considered a minor property offense, and he or she is usually given special consideration in plea negotiations, even if it is a repeat crime. If the offender is older, or if there is any type of struggle for the item in the process of theft, the charges can quickly escalate. Most of the time, however, they are minor, low-value crimes that should not be so easily grouped together with the more extreme shoplifting felonies we hear about in the news.Unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped lawmakers from trying to make the current laws even tougher in recent years.
Because of these kinds of attitudes towards shoplifting, it’s vital for each defendant to have their story told by a lawyer who understands this area of the law. Only by doing this can they ensure they will receive the most reasonable and fair treatment in Colorado’s court system.
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.