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Colorado Auto Theft Laws

Colorado treats auto theft seriously, although there are many different variations of charges and sentences that can apply. The first thing to be aware of is that Colorado's motor vehicle theft laws apply broadly to "all vehicles of whatever description propelled by any power other than muscular, except vehicles running on rails." So, technically, this could even include motorized scooters.

To commit the crime of second degree motor vehicle theft, a person must knowingly obtain or control another person's motor vehicle without authorization or by threat or deception. However, the crime elevates to first degree motor vehicle theft if any of the following aggravating factors are present:

  1. Retaining possession or control of the vehicle for more than 24 hours;
  2. Attempting to alter or disguise the vehicle;
  3. Attempting to alter or remove the vehicle identification number;
  4. Using the vehicle to commit a crime;
  5. Causing $500 or more in property damage;
  6. Causing bodily injury to another person;
  7. Removing the vehicle from the state for over 12 hours; or
  8. Attaching or displaying a different license plate on the vehicle.

Because motor vehicle theft can often involve several different jurisdictions based on how far the stolen vehicle travels, Colorado law requires that the offender be tried in the jurisdiction where the actual theft took place.

Colorado Auto Theft Laws: An Overview

The chart below contains information about specific laws relating to auto theft in Colorado.

Penalties and Sentences

First Degree Aggravated Motor Vehicle Theft

  • Class 3 felony if vehicle is over $100,000 or if the defendant has two prior motor vehicle theft convictions, punishable by up to 12 years in prison and up to $750,000 in fines
  • Class 4 felony if vehicle is between $20,000 and $100,000, punishable by up to 6 years in prison and up to $500,000 in fines
  • Class 5 felony if vehicle is less than $20,000, punishable by up to 3 years in prison and up to $100,000 in fines

Second Degree Aggravated Motor Vehicle Theft

  • Class 5 felony if vehicle is $20,000 or more, punishable by up to 3 years in prison and up to $100,000 in fines
  • Class 6 felony if vehicle is between $1,000 and $20,000, punishable by between 1 and 1.5 years in prison and $100,000 in fines
  • Class 1 misdemeanor if vehicle is less than $1,000, punishable by between 6 months and 1.5 years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines

Defenses include:

  • Self-defense
  • Execution of public duty
  • Choice of evils/justification
  • Duress
  • Entrapment
  • Involuntary Intoxication
  • Impaired mental condition
  • Insanity
  • Age (no child under 10 can be guilty of any criminal offense)

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Colorado Auto Theft Laws: Additional Resources

Charged with Auto Theft in Colorado? Contact an Attorney

As you can see, there are many different factors that can determine which Colorado auto theft laws and sentences apply in a case. Some of these factors include the estimated value of the vehicle or the length of time that an offender is in possession of the vehicle. Each of these elements can be contested and could mean the difference between 12 years in prison or an acquittal. If you've been charged under Colorado auto theft laws, contact a local criminal defense attorney who will be in the best position to evaluate your case and zealously advocate on your behalf.

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