There are two general types of criminal charges in Colorado: misdemeanors and felonies. Within each of these categories are hundreds of different types of crimes, including assault, theft, or possession of controlled substances. Many of these acts can be charged as either misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the amount of damage done or the amount of substances involved.
Let’s take a look at theft.
Some theft crimes are miniscule in nature, like a teenager stealing a pair of sunglasses from a store. Other theft crimes can ruin lives, such as a hacker who steals hundreds of thousands of dollars from unsuspecting victims and puts them in crippling debt.
These two crimes are both types of theft, but one person will be charged with a misdemeanor, and the other will be charged with a felony.
Felony charges don’t just come with longer jail sentences and higher fines. If you are a convicted felon in Colorado, you could lose your right to vote (at least temporarily), your right to own a firearm, and the ability to work in certain job fields.
So, when is theft a felony? Each crime is different, but here are some general reasons why a Colorado theft may be charged as a felony.
Each state has a different felony theft threshold, or an amount at which theft crimes become a felony. Colorado’s felony theft threshold is $2,000.
This means that if someone takes or attempts to take property that is valued at over $2,000, they can be charged with a class 6 felony. The penalties for a class 6 felony in Colorado include up to 18 months behind bars and up to $100,000 in fines.
It’s important to understand that felony theft charges start at a class 6 felony. If aggravating factors exist, these charges will be increased.
Aggravating factors include:
- Theft of over $5,000 or more
- Previous theft convictions on the defendant’s criminal record
- Type of property that was stolen
- Whether the theft was committed inside a dwelling or occupied building (burglary)
- Use of force or coercion in order to commit theft (robbery)
If Someone’s Identity Is Involved
Identity theft has become a rising concern for law enforcement officials over the past few decades as technology has made it increasingly easy to perpetrate. Through the theft of birth dates, social security numbers, and other personal information, hackers and thieves can access bank accounts, credit cards, and other financial institutions in order to get away with large sums of money.
In order to tackle the problem of identity theft throughout Colorado, state lawmakers have made identity theft a felony. Even if you don’t get away with stealing any money or property, the possession of tools or information that can be used to commit identity theft is still a class 4 felony.
The penalties for a class 4 felony in Colorado include up to six years in prison and up to $500,000 in fines.
If Medical Records Are Involved
The theft of personal information is serious business. Even if that information is not directly related to the person’s financial status or accounts, stolen information can result in felony charges.
Case-in-point: theft of medical records and medical information is a class 6 felony in Colorado. This charge includes:
- Disclosing medical records or information to an unauthorized person
- Unlawfully making copies of medical records
- Having the intention of exploiting the information for your or another person’s use
If a Motor Vehicle Is Stolen
Colorado has a separate theft charge for incidents where a motor vehicle is stolen (or the defendant attempts to steal a motor vehicle). While basic motor vehicle theft can be a misdemeanor, aggravated motor vehicle theft charges start at a class 5 felony – and that’s only if the vehicle in question is valued at less than $20,000. If the vehicle is worth more, the charges will be more severe.
The penalties for a class 5 felony in Colorado include up to three years in prison and up to $100,000 in fines.
If the Alleged Perpetrator Has Been Previously Convicted for the Same Crime
We mentioned earlier that having a criminal record may turn a misdemeanor crime into a felony. Certain theft crimes only become a felony if there is another theft charge on the person’s record.
For example, if you are suspected of stealing trade secrets, you would normally face class 1 misdemeanor charges. However, if you already have a conviction of that sort on your record, the charges will be bumped up to a class 5 felony charge.
If you have previous convictions on your record and fear that you might face additional theft charges, reach out to a Colorado defense lawyer immediately.
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.