Crime is on the rise here in our state.
In a single year – from 2015 to 2016 – the overall crime rate went up 5.5% according to a recent report released by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
Homicides went up 9.9%. Rapes went up 7.2%. Aggravated assaults went up 8.3%. Robberies went up 5.9%. Larceny – more commonly known as theft – went up 4.3%. The biggest increase came from motor vehicle thefts, which went up 22%. In a single year.
In addition to these crimes and the overall crime rate increasing, it’s also important to note that while there are a number of reported incidents for certain crimes – rape, assault, and motor vehicle theft – the actual arrests for these criminal acts are much lower.
For example, in 2016 there were 19,430 motor vehicle thefts reported, and only 2,705 arrests were made. Nearly a quarter of motor vehicle thefts happened in Denver, followed by Colorado Springs, Aurora, Pueblo, and Lakewood.
Why has theft – more specifically motor vehicle theft – become so inflated over the course of one year?
Carole Walker with Coloradans Against Auto Theft believes that an increase in vehicle theft is related to an increase in other crimes. “So often we think of auto theft as kids out joyriding, a victimless crime,” Walker said. “We are seeing all these serious violent crimes involved with auto theft…So as we are seeing an increase in drug trafficking, opioid use, gun involvement.”
So what does this increase in crime mean for you?
Well, with such a giant leap from one year to the next, it is pretty much a guarantee that law enforcement will be cracking down on all types of crime, especially the crime with the biggest increase of all: motor vehicle theft.
Understanding Motor Vehicle Theft Laws in Colorado
In our state, stealing a car, truck, motorcycle, or any vehicle “propelled by any power other than muscular, except vehicles running on rails” is against the law and you could be charged with first or second degree aggravated motor vehicle theft if you’re caught.
Let’s look at the laws and penalties for both of these crimes.
First Degree Aggravated Motor Vehicle Theft. A person commits first degree aggravated motor vehicle theft if he or she knowingly obtains or exercises control over the motor vehicle of another without authorization or by threat or deception and at least one of the following:
- Keeps the motor vehicle for more than 24 hours; or
- Attempts to alter or disguise or alters or disguises the appearance of the motor vehicle; or
- Attempts to alter or remove or alters or removes the vehicle identification number; or
- Uses the motor vehicle in the commission of a crime other than a traffic offense; or
- Causes $500 or more property damage, including but not limited to property damage to the motor vehicle involved, in the course of obtaining control over or in the exercise of control of the motor vehicle; or
- Causes bodily injury to another person while he or she is in the exercise of control of the motor vehicle; or
- Removes the motor vehicle from this state for a period of time in excess of twelve hours; or
- Unlawfully attaches or otherwise displays in or upon the motor vehicle license plates other than those officially issued for the motor vehicle.
The value of the stolen vehicle determines what you will be charged with if you’re arrested.
- If the vehicle is worth less than $20,000, you will be charged with a Class 5 felony punishable by 1 to 3 years in prison.
- If the vehicle is worth $20,000-$100,000, you will be charged with a Class 4 felony punishable by 2 to 6 years in prison.
- If the vehicle is worth more than $100,000 you will be charged with a Class 3 felony punishable by 4 to 12 years in prison.
Second Degree Aggravated Motor Vehicle Theft. If none of the aggravating factors from first degree aggravated motor vehicle theft are present, then a person commits second degree aggravated motor vehicle theft.
- If the vehicle is worth $20,000 or more, you will be charged with a Class 5 felony punishable by 1 to 3 years in prison.
- If the vehicle is worth $1,000-$20,000, you will be charged with a Class 6 felony punishable by 1 year to 18 months in prison.
- If the vehicle is worth less than $1,000, you will be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by 6 to 18 months in jail.
With an increase in motor vehicle theft crimes, the police will be out in full force looking for perpetrators. That’s why it’s more important than ever to fight back if you get charged with this crime, and to contact an experienced Colorado criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
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.