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How does dollar value increase felony theft charges?

Posted on February 16, 2021

You have probably wondered how long someone could go to prison for an act of theft. Stealing money or property is a very broad area of law and can involve differing levels of punishment. Some sentences are light but other punishments may deprive you of much of your freedom. 

A major factor in driving up the severity of theft charges is the dollar value of the items stolen. FindLaw provides some information on how Colorado law breaks down theft charges based upon dollar amounts. 

Misdemeanor theft

Stealing an item worth less than $50 is the lowest level of theft. State law considers it a Class 1 Petty Offense that can put you in jail for no more than six months and impose a fine up to $500. However, once the dollar value exceeds $50, the law will start levying misdemeanor charges. 

Misdemeanor charges range from Class 3 up to 1. For law enforcement to convict you of a Class 1 misdemeanor, you would have to be guilty of taking property worth between $750 and $2,000. You would spend up to 1.5 years in prison and possibly pay as much as $5,000 in fines. Once the value exceeds $2,000, Colorado law starts to charge theft as a felony. 

Felony theft

As dollar amounts continue to rise, the amount in fines and the length of the prison sentence will go up. If law enforcement convicts you of stealing between $2,000 and $5,000, you may only serve as long as one and a half years in prison. But if the dollar amount exceeds $100,000, the prison sentence can rise past ten years. Here is a look at how the felony levels correspond to prison sentencing: 

  • Class 6 reaches up to 1.5 years 
  • Class 5 reaches up to 3 years 
  • Class 4 reaches up to 6 years 
  • Class 3 reaches up to 12 years 
  • Class 2 reaches up to 24 years 

The highest felony level involves a money value of over a million dollars. These are typically the most complicated theft cases since they may involve grand larceny, fraud or violent crimes such as robbing a bank or another financial institution. 

Contesting theft charges

Because dollar value matters a lot to theft charges, showing that the value of a supposedly stolen item is not high may reduce the severity of a charge. There are also other defenses against theft charges such as entrapment or duress that caused you to perform the act. How your defense would shape up will depend on the circumstances of your case.