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When is theft a felony?

An arrest and criminal charges are overwhelming life experiences. They can cause fear, anxiety, regret and even confusion. The law is hard to comprehend, making it also difficult to understand charges and possible penalties and to come up with an appropriate defense.

For those facing accusations of theft, it can be helpful to know how the state classifies this crime, as there is a big difference between misdemeanors and felonies.

Classification of theft

Theft can either fall under a misdemeanor or felony, with a set dollar amount dividing the line between the two. In Colorado, stealing something worth at least $2,000 crosses someone into the felony territory. Petty theft is when the amount is below $50.

Within each category are multiple classes (or levels) also dependent on the value of the stolen goods. Misdemeanor theft charges come in three classes:

  • Class 3: $50 to under $300
  • Class 2: $300 to under $750
  • Class 1: $750 to under $2,000

Felony charges come in the following classes:

  • Class 6: $2,000 to under $5,000
  • Class 5: $5,000 to under $20,000
  • Class 4: $20,000 to under $100,000
  • Class 3: $100,000 to under $1 million
  • Class 2: $1 million and over

These divisions matter because they determine what penalties the defendant may face upon conviction. Obviously, the higher the item is worth, the more severe the punishment.

Revision in dollar amount

Each state has its own distinction between misdemeanor and felony theft. For some, the threshold is very low, such as in New Jersey where it is only $250 (which is just a class 3 misdemeanor in Colorado). This leads to overcrowded prisons, at the cost of taxpayers, and long-term consequences for many people who made a mistake and are not dangerous.

Colorado is one of the states that not only has increased the amount that qualifies as felony charges but also is in the highest bracket for the threshold. Research shows that this approach does not interfere with decreasing crime rates or encourage stealing high-value merchandise, and neither does a low threshold deter theft.

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