On a Sunday last June, an estimated 25 cars and two homes were broken into in the Stetson Hills neighborhood of Colorado Springs.
With Colorado burglaries on the rise during the coronavirus pandemic, break-ins are hardly unusual. In Colorado Springs, in particular, car burglaries are one of the most common crimes. However, these break-ins were unusual, say representatives from the Colorado Springs Police.
As Colorado Springs Officer MJ Thomson explained to reporters from KRDO, this series of incidents was particularly strange because no items were actually stolen from many of the cars that were broken into.
“Usually we don’t have the windows broken out and items not taken,” he said. “Some items were taken, but a lot of the car windows were broken with nothing taken inside.”
The string of break-ins raises an interesting question: Is it still a burglary when nothing is stolen? The answer is, it depends.
A Closer Look at Colorado Burglary and Criminal Trespassing Laws
According to Colorado law, a burglary occurs when someone knowingly breaks into a building or occupied structure with the intent to commit a crime inside.
That means that if you break into a building or structure with the intention of committing a crime — such as theft — the crime still counts as burglary, even if you don’t succeed in committing that crime.
All that needs to exist in order to prove burglary is intent.
Breaking Into a Motor Vehicle
Things are, however, a little different when it comes to motor vehicles. Unlike breaking into a building with the intent to commit a crime, breaking into an auto vehicle with the intent to commit a crime inside is considered first-degree criminal trespass in Colorado.
If the intention to commit a crime inside the vehicle does not exist, it would be charged as second-degree criminal trespass.
Let’s apply this law to the string of car break-ins in Colorado Springs: Even though the suspects did not steal items from some of the vehicles after breaking into them, they may still be charged as first-degree criminal trespass if it can be proved that they intended to steal items.
Without proof of intention, the incidents could qualify as second-degree criminal trespass.
Penalties for Burglaries and Criminal Trespassing in Colorado
When it comes to break-ins, whether your intent to commit a crime can be proved may mean the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor charge — which translates to a major difference in sentencing severity.
Penalties for Colorado Burglary
If you break into a building or occupied structure with the intent to commit a crime, it considered a burglary. Burglary is a Class 4 felony and punishable by two to six years imprisonment and a fine of $2,000 to $500,000.
Colorado Criminal Trespass Sentencing
Similarly, if you break into a motor vehicle with the intent to commit a crime, it is considered first-degree criminal trespass. First-degree criminal trespass is a Class 5 felony and punishable by one to four years imprisonment and a fine of $1,000 to $100,000.
However, if you break into a motor vehicle without an intent to commit a crime, it is considered second-degree criminal trespass. Second-degree criminal trespass is a Class 3 misdemeanor and punishable by up to six months imprisonment and a fine of $50.
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 & 2019” and a “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012-2020 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. Additionally, Expertise names her to its lists of the 25 Best Denver DUI Lawyers and 21 Best Denver Criminal Defense Lawyers, both in 2020. Ms. Diego has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.