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Auto Theft

Auto theft, sometimes known as “aggravated motor vehicle theft,” is one of many Colorado crimes that has changed beginning March 1, 2022. Any alleged offenses occurring after on or after March 1, 2022, are subject to the updated law, and any alleged offense occurring before March 1, 2022, falls under the older version of the law. For those charged under the older version, visit the Resources section.

As of March 1, 2022, auto theft can be defined as first and second-degree statuses. Most auto theft crimes are felony-level offenses, but some are classified as class 1 misdemeanors.

Denver Auto Theft Attorney

A conviction for auto theft may mean that you will face years of imprisonment and steep fines. Thankfully, an arrest does not mean conviction. If you have been arrested for auto theft, you can take action to protect your future. Contact a skilled criminal defense lawyer such as Matthew Martin at Law Office of Matthew A. Martin, P.C. who can aggressively represent you in court.

With over 26 of experience in criminal law, he can form a strong defense for your case. To schedule a free consultation with Law Office of Matthew A. Martin, P.C., call (303) 725-0017 today. Law Office of Matthew A. Martin, P.C. accepts clients throughout the greater Denver area including Jefferson County, Douglas County, Adams County, Boulder County, Arapahoe County, and Broomfield County.

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Information Center

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Definition of Motor Vehicle Per Colorado Law

Although it is often obvious, there are times when there is genuine confusion over what is and is not a motor vehicle. Colorado law defines “motor vehicle” as “All vehicles of whatever description propelled by any power other than muscular…”. This definition allows considerable room for nearly any kind of vehicle. However, the law excludes railroad cars.

Some auto theft crimes require proof of altering or removing the vehicle identification number, often called a “VIN.” Usually, the VIN is simpler to identify and describe. The law defines “vehicle identification number” as the serial number located on the vehicle by the manufacturer and assigned to the vehicle by the department of revenue.

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First-Degree Auto Theft in Colorado

First-degree auto theft is extensive and has several requirements. To be guilty of this crime, a defendant must have knowingly obtained or exercised control over another person’s vehicle through the use of

  • Threats;
  • Deception; or
  • Lack of authorization.

Additionally, the accused must have completed one of the following aggravating factors:

  • Retains possession or control of the vehicle for over 24 hours;
  • Attempts to alter or disguise the appearance of the vehicle (or accomplish the act);
  • Attempts to alter or remove the vehicle identification number (or accomplish the act);
  • Uses the vehicle in the commission of a crime other than a traffic offense;
  • Causes five hundred dollars or more of property damage;
  • Causes bodily injury to another person while exercising control of the vehicle;
  • Removes the vehicle from Colorado for more than 12 hours; or
  • Unlawfully attaches or otherwise displays unlawful license plates.

First-degree auto theft is divided into felony classes based on the value of the vehicle(s).

  • Class 5 felony – total value less than $20,000;
  • Class 4 felony – total value more than $20,000 but less than $100,000;
  • Class 3 felony – total value greater than $100,000 or there are prior vehicle theft charges.

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Second-Degree Auto Theft

Second-degree auto theft is defined as the same as first-degree auto theft. However, it does not require any of the aggravating factors to be present for a conviction. Because no actions beyond taking or removing the vehicle are required, achieving a conviction under second-degree rather than first-degree is easier.

  • Class 6 felony – total value between $2000-$20,000;
  • Class 1 misdemeanor – total value less than $2000.

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Penalties for Auto Theft in Colorado

Penalties for first and second-degree auto theft can vary based on prior criminal history and the circumstances of the auto theft crime. Regardless of the conviction, penalties can be severe, starting with the revocation of a driver’s license. Other penalties can include significant fines, jail, and prison time. Sometimes sentences include time spent on parole or probation.

If convicted of first-degree auto theft, a defendant could spend several years in prison and pay up to $100,000 in fines. As the felony class increases, the fines and time spent in prison are generally reduced.

If convicted of second-degree auto theft, a defendant could spend a year and a half in prison and pay fines. Class 1 misdemeanors are usually accompanied by up to 364 days in jail and up to $750 in fines.

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Defenses for Auto Theft in Colorado

There are many defenses for auto theft, and they can serve different purposes based on the facts of the case. For example, a defendant charged with first-degree auto theft can mount of defense to reduce the charge to second-degree auto theft. Suppose the prosecutor alleges that the amount of property damage arose to $650. A criminal defense attorney could argue that the property damage was $450 or any amount under $500. Although no defendant wants any kind of conviction, a second-degree auto theft conviction has fewer consequences than a first-degree conviction.

Other defenses can include:

  • Lawful ownership of the vehicle – defendants cannot steal vehicles that lawfully belong to them;
  • Permission – the defendant drove the vehicle but had permission before driving;
  • Illegal search – the car was found through an illegal search by law enforcement; and
  • Misunderstanding – the defendant was unaware that the owner did not give permission.

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Statute Of Limitations

A statute of limitation refers to the time frame a prosecuting attorney can charge someone with a crime. Usually, the time period starts when the offense allegedly occurred. For many crimes, prosecutors lose the opportunity to charge someone with a crime after a certain amount of time has passed. In Colorado, the statute of limitations for all crimes is determined by the type of crime and whether it is a petty offense, misdemeanor, or felony-level crime. Like other felony-level offenses, prosecuting attorneys have three years to file a charge against a person for an auto theft crime in either the first or second degree. If an auto theft crime is charged as a misdemeanor, a prosecutor typically has 18 months to file a charge.

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Additional Resources

Colorado Law For Aggravated Motor Vehicle Theft (Auto Theft) – Visit this website to view Colorado’s statute on first and second-degree auto theft and changes to the law before and after March 1, 2022.

Colorado Public Safety Information – The Colorado Auto Theft Prevention Authority provides resources for the public regarding vehicle purchases and stolen vehicles.

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Colorado Auto Theft Lawyer | Denver, CO

Were you arrested or do think that you might be under criminal investigation for an alleged auto theft offense in Colorado? Criminal defense lawyer Matthew Martin at Law Office of Matthew A. Martin, P.C. works tirelessly to help those charged with auto theft achieve the most favorable outcomes to their criminal cases. Contact him today to schedule a free consultation at (303) 725-0017.

A conviction could result in prison time and expensive fines. Don’t wait much longer and reach out to Law Office of Matthew A. Martin, P.C. as soon as possible. Mr. Martin has offices in Denver, CO, but accepts clients throughout the greater Denver area including Boulder, Louisville, Lafayette, Lyons, Lakewood,  Evergreen, Golden, Morrison, Englewood, and Centennial.

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