Burglary vs Theft: What Is The Difference?

Burglary vs Theft: What Is The Difference?

Burglary Crimes vs Theft Crimes

If you take someone’s property without their permission, you’re subject to criminal prosecution. When assessing the differences between burglary vs theft, you’ll see that Colorado’s statutes consider intent and execution. Burglary charges consider the fact that a person “knowingly” entered a premises where they endangered or may have endangered the occupants.

Theft crimes don’t necessarily endanger people. The crimes focus on the various methods by which a thief obtains someone else’s property. The penalties consider the value of the property taken. These and other factors are critical in determining burglary vs theft charges and penalties.

  • The dollar amount of the property,
  • The method by which the person committed the act
  • Whether it was a first or subsequent crime
  • If the person committed a crime against an elderly person
  • If the burglary involves controlled substances
  • Whether the crime took place before or after July 1, 2020

Burglary Crimes

In Colorado, all burglaries are felony crimes and most thefts are misdemeanors. A person commits burglary when they “knowingly” enter or remain on a premises unlawfully and with the intent to commit a crime. By this definition, a person is a potential burglar if they enter a home as an invited guest, stay beyond the expected time frame, and commit a crime.

Although burglary often involves taking property, the crime can be kidnapping, assault, or some other illegal activity. Colorado Revised Statutes list three types of burglary crimes. Burglaries that involve an enhanced element of danger (drugs, guns) receive an upgrade to a higher felony class.

First Degree Burglary: Class 3 Felony

Under C.R.S. 18-4-202, a first-degree burglary occurs when a person who is entering, inside, or escaping a building, commits certain acts.

  • Menaces a person while committing a burglary
  • Possesses explosives
  • Uses or threatens to use a deadly weapon

First-degree burglary is a Class 2 felony when a person steals or intends to steal legally-held controlled substances, such as drugs stocked in a pharmacy.

Second Degree Burglary: Class 4 Felony

C.R.S. 18-4-203 describes the circumstances under which a person is guilty of second-degree burglary.

  • Involving a dwelling or residence.
  • Attempting to take a lawfully-held controlled substance
  • Intention to steal firearms or ammunition.

Second-degree burglary is a Class 3 felony when it involves legally-held controlled substances.

Third Degree Burglary: Class 5 Felony

Based on C.R.S. 18-4-204, a third-degree burglary occurs when a person commits a burglary with the intent to break into a vault, safe, cash register, or another unit that holds or stores cash or coins.

Third-degree burglary is a Class 4 felony when it involves legally-held controlled substances.

Possession of Burglary Tools: Class 5 Felony

Under C.R.S. 18-4-205, a person commits a crime when they possess tools customarily used to commit burglaries. These include explosives, adapted/designed tools, or other articles commonly used for forcible entry or theft. Again, the charge is based on intent. The person must possess burglary tools with the intention of using them or knowing that someone else will use them to commit a crime.

Theft Crimes

Title 18, Parts 4, 6, 7, and 8 of Colorado’s Criminal Code include a broad range of theft crimes. Just as with burglary, an act of theft is based largely on intent. A person commits theft when they knowingly obtain or exercise control over someone else’s property:

  • Without Authorization
  • By threat or deception
  • By pawning or pledging non-owned property for financial gain
  • Knowingly disposing of stolen property

When comparing burglary vs theft crimes, you see how theft statutes consider the method of depriving a person of an object’s use or value. Thefts don’t include an element of danger for premises occupants. Theft involves theft outright. It also involves concealment, abandonment, or deprivation of someone of their property.

It can be a failure to return property for more than 72 hours after an agreed return time. It can also be an act of deceiving a person to gain access to their property. Colorado’s theft statues include these and other categories:

  • Trade Secrets: C.R.S. 18-4-408, Class 1 misdemeanor
  • Theft of Medical Records, C.R.S. 18-4-412, Class 6 felony
  • Unauthorized or unlawful use of photographs, videotapes, or films of property, C.R.S. 18-4-415, unclassified
  • Unlawful transfer for sale of sound recordings, phonograph records, videos, discs, etc. for sale, C.R.S. 18-4-602, Class 6 felony
  • Theft of Cable TV Service, C.R.S. 18-4-701, Class 2 misdemeanor

Theft Classifications

A theft crime is classified based on the stolen property’s dollar value.

  • Class 1 petty offense: Less than $50.
  • Class 3 misdemeanor: More than $50 but less than $300.
  • Class 2 misdemeanor: More than $300 but less than $750.
  • Class 1 misdemeanor: More than $750 or more but less than $2,000.
  • Class 6 felony: More than $2,000 but less than $5,000.
  • Class 5 felony: More than $5,000 but less than $20,000.
  • Class 4 felony: More than $20,000 but less than $100,000.
  • Class 3 felony: More than$100,000 but less than one million dollars.
  • Class 2 felony: One million dollars or more.

Burglary Penalties vs Theft Penalties

Once a court convicts a person of burglary or theft crime, judges have some discretion in sentencing. They may sentence a convicted burglar or thief to imprisonment, or fine them, or both. In sentencing, courts consider an offender’s criminal history and other factors. Restitution is usually included in as part of a theft or burglary sentence. Penalties recently changed for some crimes committed after July 1, 2020.

Penalties for a Burglary Crime Conviction May Include

First-Degree Burglary (Class 3 Felony)

  • Imprisonment: 4 to 12 years, mandatory 3-year parole period and/or
  • Fine: $3,000-$750,000.

First-Degree Burglary of a Controlled Substance (Class 2 felony)

  • Imprisonment: 8 to 24 years, mandatory 5-year parole period, and/or
  • Fine: $5,000-$1,000,000.

Second-Degree Burglary (Class 4 Felony)

  • Imprisonment: 2 to 6 years, mandatory 3-year parole period, and/or
  • Fine: $2,000-$500,000.

Second-Degree Burglary of a Controlled Substance (Class 3 Felony)

  • Imprisonment: 4-12 years in prison, mandatory 5-year parole period, and/or
  • Fine: $3,000-$750,000.

Third-Degree Burglary (Class 5 Felony)

  • Imprisonment: 1-3 years, mandatory 2-year parole period, and/or
  • Fine: 1,000 to $100,000.

Third-Degree Burglary of a Controlled Substance (Class 4 felony)

  • Imprisonment: 2 to 6 years, mandatory 3-year parole period, and/or
  • Fine: $2,000-$500,000.

Penalties for Theft Crime Conviction May Include

Class 6 Felony Theft

  • Imprisonment: Up to 18 months, plus 1-year mandatory parole period and/or
  • Fine: $2,000 to 3,000
  • Class 5, 4, 3, and 2 Felony Theft penalties are the same as described in Burglary Crimes.

Class 1 Petty Offense

  • Imprisonment: Up to 6 months and/or
  • Fine: up to $500.

Class 1 Misdemeanor

  • Imprisonment: 6 to 18 months, and/or
  • Fine: $500 to $5,000

Class 2 Misdemeanor

  • Imprisonment: 3 months to 364 days, and/or
  • Fine: $250 to $1,000

Class 3 Misdemeanor

  • Imprisonment: up to 6 months and/or
  • Fine: $50 to $750

Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney

If you’ve been arrested for a theft or burglary crime, you need legal assistance immediately. Even if you’re only charged with a petty theft crime, a judge may fine you and sentence you to jail time. A conviction can hinder your career, trigger an eviction, and create fallout that lasts the rest of your life. Criminal defense attorneys help you navigate Colorado’s criminal justice system. They represent you during critical court appearances and help you devise a defense strategy.

Contact us right away for a free consultation.

Author Bio

alexis austin

Alexis Austin is the CEO and Managing Partner of Right Law Group, a criminal defense law firm she founded in 2018, with convenient locations in Colorado Springs, Castle Rock and Highlands Ranch. With almost a decade of experience in criminal defense, she has zealously represented clients in a wide range of legal matters, including DUIs, misdemeanors, felonies, domestic violence, and other criminal charges.

Alexis received her Juris Doctor from the University of Denver — Sturm College of Law and is a member of the Colorado Bar Association. She has received numerous accolades for her work, including being named among the “Top 40 Under 40” in 2018 by The National Trial Lawyers and featured in Authority Magazine’s “Top Lawyers” series.

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