Colorado Springs Auto Theft Defense Attorneys
As the name suggests, auto theft is stealing another person's vehicle with no intention of returning it. If you steal a car in Colorado, you will very likely be facing a felony charge. The class of felony depends on the value of the vehicle that you allegedly took. A judge could impose hefty fines or even send you to jail for an extended period of time.
If you used violence or the threat of violence to take a vehicle from another person, your punishment will likely be quite harsh. Regardless of the circumstances, it is crucial to hire a Colorado Springs criminal defense lawyer who will be on your side. Contact The Bussey Law Firm, P.C., to connect with a knowledgeable attorney who has experience building effective defenses in auto theft cases.
In many instances, alleged car thefts turn out to be simple misunderstandings. For instance, you may have a friend or family member who regularly allows you to borrow his or her vehicle. Perhaps you needed to borrow it one day when the owner wasn't around and assumed it would be okay for you to do so. If that person then assumes someone stole the vehicle and reports it, the police could lay auto theft charges against you. To prevent such mix-ups in Colorado, it’s up to the court to prove that the accused:
- Kept the car for at least 24 hours.
- Made efforts to conceal the identity of the car (by changing the VIN, the color, or the license plates, for example).
- Committed a crime or injured someone else while the vehicle was in his or her possession.
- Left the state with the vehicle for at least 12 hours.
Otherwise, it’s not considered auto theft.
The term "grand theft auto" is typically used in states that have multiple statutes covering issues like joyriding and vehicle theft. There is no statute in Colorado specifying a difference between auto theft and joyriding, so there is no official use of the term "grand theft auto,” though there are two degrees of auto theft. In general, it is used to refer to more serious car theft charges. It is important to know, however, that taking a vehicle for more than 24 hours, even for a "joyride," is serious and can be charged as a felony in Colorado.
There are two different “degrees” of auto theft in Colorado, depending on how long the vehicle is taken for and what is done to it. Both can be felonies, though there are lesser charges possible if the vehicle is taken for only for a short duration.
Taking a vehicle and performing any of the above actions, such as keeping it for more than 24 hours, trying to conceal its identity, or using it to commit a crime, is Aggravated First Degree Vehicle Theft and is charged as either a class 3 or class 4 felony. If the value of the vehicle is $20,000 or less, then it is usually charged as a class 4 felony, while theft of a vehicle worth more than $20,000 is a class 3 felony.
On the other hand, there is a lesser charge for theft of a vehicle if the previous conditions are not met. Taking a vehicle for only a few hours (not more than 24) and not using that vehicle to commit a crime, for example, can be charged as Aggravated Second Degree Vehicle Theft. If the value of the vehicle is less than $1,000 then it can be charged as a class 1 misdemeanor; if the value is between $1,000 and $20,000, then it can be charged as a class 6 felony; while theft of a vehicle valued at more than $20,000, even for a short time, is charged as a class 5 felony.
Punishments for auto theft depend on the degree of the charge, and what type of felony or misdemeanor it is. While mitigating or aggravating factors can always come into play, in general the punishments are:
- Aggravated First Degree - Class 3 Felony: 4 to 12 years in prison and a fine of $3,000 to $750,000.
- Aggravated First Degree - Class 4 Felony: 2 to 6 years in prison and a fine of $2,000 to $500,000.
- Aggravated Second Degree - Class 5 Felony: 1 to 3 years in prison and a fine of $1,000 to $100,000.
- Aggravated Second Degree - Class 6 Felony: 1 year to 18 months in prison and a fine of $1,000 to $100,000.
- Aggravated Second Degree - Class 1 Misdemeanor: 6 to 18 months in prison and fine of $500 to $5,000.
In Colorado, there are no specific laws indicating charges or penalties for carjacking, which is the theft of a vehicle by force and the threat of violence or use of a weapon against the person driving it. With that in mind, robbery laws can be applied to instances of carjacking, stacking charges against a defendant. For example, someone who is accused of carjacking can be charged with the auto theft and with a robbery charge. Together, these can result in serious prison time and major fines against the defendant.
Strong defense against an auto theft allegation can be built in some situations. If you borrowed a friend's car, made no attempt to conceal the fact you took it (by changing the license plates, for example) and had it for less than a day when you were arrested, the prosecution will have a hard time proving you intended to keep the car. If you threatened a stranger behind the wheel of a car with a firearm to take possession of a vehicle, a defense may be more difficult. Regardless of the circumstances, though, securing legal representation is always a wise idea.
Attorney Timothy Bussey of The Bussey Law Firm, P.C. has experience on both sides of the courtroom as a district attorney and an aggressive defense lawyer. He will work diligently to ensure a court will find you not guilty or possibly reduce your charges. Your best course of action will depend mainly on the specifics of the situation. Contact us today to arrange a free initial consultation to find out more.