Motor vehicle theft, aggravated motor vehicle theft, and grand theft auto are common terms used to describe the theft of a motor vehicle. Motor vehicles include all vehicles propelled or powered by any method except muscular. So, although items like bicycles and horse carriages are not motor vehicles since they are powered by human or animal strength. Here is a list of motor vehicles that would qualify: passenger car, passenger truck, automobile, sport utility vehicle, bus, semi-truck & trailer, motorcycle, motor home, motor coach, recreational vehicle (RV), snow mobile, motor scooter, an all terrain vehicle (ATV or four wheeler). Motor vehicles do not include vehicles that run on rail.
There is a lot of misinformation on what constitutes motor vehicle theft. Under Colorado law, there are 2 types of vehicle theft, 1stand 2nd degree motor vehicle theft.
Under Colorado law, 2nd degree motor vehicle theft is when a person knowingly obtains possession or control over a motor vehicle that belongs to another person without authorization.
The potential penalties for 2nd degree motor vehicle theft is:
- Class 5 felony, with a presumptive jail or prison sentence of 1-3 years when the value of the vehicle is $20,000 or more.
- Class 6 felony, with a presumptive jail or prison sentence of 1 year to 18 months, when the value is $1,000 but less than $20,000.
- A class 1 misdemeanor, with a presumptive jail or prison sentence of 6 months to 18 months, when the value is less than $1,000.
Under Colorado law, 1st degree motor vehicle theft is when a person knowingly obtains possession or control over a motor vehicle that belongs to another person without authorization and also does one of the following aggravating factors:
- Retains possession for over 24 hours.
- Attempts to alter, change, or disguise the way the motor vehicle looks.
- Alters or removes the vehicle identification number (VIN).
- Commits a crime with the motor vehicle, not including traffic violations.
- Causes damage to property and/or the motor vehicle of $500 or more.
- Causes injury to another person while attempting to gain control over the vehicle.
- Causes injury to another person while in control of the vehicle.
- Removes the vehicle from the State of Colorado for more than 12 hours.
- Attaches license plates to the vehicle that are not issued for that vehicle.
The potential penalties for 1st degree Aggravated motor vehicle theft is:
- Class 4 felony, with a presumptive jail or prison sentence of 2-6 years when the value is up to $20,000 (4-12 years with aggravating factors).
- Class 3 felony, with a presumptive jail or prison sentence of 4-12 years when the value is more than $20,000, or when the suspect has been convicted of theft of a motor vehicle in Colorado or any other state, the US, or any territory of the US (8-24 years with aggravating circumstances).
When a person is convicted of motor vehicle theft, pleads guilty or no contest, receives a deferred sentence, adjudicated as a delinquent (conviction for minor), the person’s driver’s license shall be revoked.
If the motor vehicle theft occurs in a jurisdiction and the motor vehicle is recovered in another jurisdiction, the accused can be brought to trial in the jurisdiction where the car was stolen, in the jurisdiction where the car was found, or any jurisdiction the vehicle was operated in.
For more information, see Colorado Revised Statute 18-4-409