Most people understand that walking out of a store with any merchandise you didn’t pay for is shoplifting. Were you aware, however, there are other ways shoplifting crimes can be committed? A few of them, offenders can even commit unintentionally!
This Christmas season, don’t ruin the holiday for yourself or your family by unintentionally shoplifting. Be aware of what shoplifting means and the repercussions this kind of mistake can have.
The Common Definition of Colorado Shoplifting
According to Colorado law, shoplifting occurs when merchandise is stolen from a store (or another place of business).
Shoplifting crimes not only include taking the property of someone else without their permission (as is the case with larceny), but also require an intent to permanently deprive the rightful owner of that property.
The differences in the charges and consequences you could face largely depend on the value of what was allegedly stolen.
Acts You Might Not Know as Shoplifting in Colorado
In Colorado, you may not know this, but you can be charged with shoplifting in more ways than for directly stealing something from a merchant.
There are actually four common shoplifting activities clients often don’t realize could land them the same charges and consequences as walking out of a retail location with property without paying.
Tampering with Theft Detection Devices
Regardless of whether you even attempt to slip past the detectors, get caught messing with those annoying theft detection devices, and you could be charged with shoplifting.
In fact, even if you are only carrying tools that could potentially be used to tamper with a device, you could still be charged if caught.
You bought those headphones for your kid for Christmas and then realized he already has them. The only problem is you already tossed the receipt and you can’t remember where you bought them from. You know Big Box Store X will return or exchange almost any item, so you take it there and get store credit.
This might seem harmless. Store X carries those headphones anyway, so no harm no foul, right? Well, in Colorado, you’re now a shoplifter.
Switching Price Tags
You see a jacket you really like, but there’s no sale sticker on it. There’s a sale sticker on every other jacket next to it. You think it must be a mistake.
So, before bringing the jacket up to the register, you take a sale sticker off another jacket and place it on your jacket. Just like that, you get the 25% …and a potential shoplifting charge.
Selling or Receiving Stolen Property
That’s right, you could be charged with shoplifting if you receive stolen goods, even if you didn’t know it. Avoid buying your kids the newest Xbox from that guy on Craigslist, and opt for an in-store or verified online purchase to play it safe.
Penalties for Shoplifting in Colorado
The penalties for shoplifting are graduated based on the retail value of the items that were stolen or otherwise wrongfully gained.
Value Under $50
For theft of items with a total value of under $50, you’re looking at a possible penalty of up to 6 months in jail as well as a possible fine of up to $500.
Although this seems like a pretty light sentence (and it is), it’s still going to cost you more than whatever it was that was stolen.
Value Between $50-$300
Now you’re looking at a Class 3 Misdemeanor. In Colorado, this could result in 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $750.
Value Between $300-$750
For theft of property valued between this amount, it is a Class 2 Misdemeanor, which carries a possibility of up to $1,000 in fines as well as up to 1 year in prison.
Value Between $750-$2,000
Theft of items within this value range could result in up to 1.5 years in prison, as well as a potential fine of up to $5,000. It is considered a Class 1 Misdemeanor.
Value Above $2,000
When the value of items stolen exceeds $2,000 it becomes a felony. Felony theft in Colorado carries a wide range of penalties (again broken down even further by the value of items stolen).
In general, however, shoplifting of items over $2,000 could result in a prison sentence anywhere between 1.5 years to 24 years. You could also face maximum fines ranging between $100,000 to $1 million.
Other Things to Know About Colorado Shoplifting
In the state of Colorado, store owners are allowed to question and temporarily detain individuals suspected of shoplifting. Additionally, merchants can sue an adult in civil court for any damages or lost income that resulted from the shoplifting.
Understand that it can be a fine line between felony and misdemeanor shoplifting charges. If you find yourself in a predicament like this, save your holiday season and reach out to an experienced Colorado defense attorney for advice.
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.