Most parents teach their children that stealing is taking something that does not belong to you, and that it is wrong. As adults, we learn that theft is not necessarily so straightforward.
The Colorado statutes on theft include many details and nuances that affect what constitutes a theft offense, as well as the consequences of a conviction.
The definition of theft
In a theft case, a prosecutor has to prove that you intended your actions to permanently deprive the owner of the object or money in question. This covers actions beyond simply taking the item. You may conceal it or give it to someone else.
As the receiver of the item, you may also face theft charges if you know it is stolen and keep, use, hide or abandon it so that the owner cannot have it.
Retaining something for too long can also be theft. For example, say you rented a pair of skis for the week, but then did not return them when they were due. If you still have them 72 hours after the time you should have returned them, the owner may press charges for theft.
The consequences of theft
Any theft conviction could result in jail time and fines, but the value of the item or money in question makes a big difference in the type of charge and the penalties and sentence that go with it.
You would only be guilty of a Class 1 petty offense if you stole something that was worth less than $50. The fine could be as much as $500, and the jail term could be up to six months.
If the item's value is $50 to $1,999, you face a misdemeanor charge, and the fine will not exceed $5,000, while the prison sentence could be as much as 1.5 years.
Felony theft offenses cover anything from $2,000 on up, and prison time could be as much as 24 years. Fines for a felony theft conviction may be significantly higher than the amount stolen in many cases.
As with every other crime, there are defenses to a theft charge. If you are arrested for theft, speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney.