Colorado Auto Theft Laws are Changing – CSP is Ready, are You?

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June 23, 2023



Colorado State Patrol Public Affairs Office

Colorado Auto Theft Laws are Changing

Colorado State Patrol is Ready, Are You?

(COLORADO) – On June 2, 2023, Governor Jared Polis signed Senate Bill 2023-097 which will soon go into effect on July 1. The Colorado Revised Statutes concerning Motor Vehicle Theft (MVT) experienced a significant overhaul this past legislative session to further reduce Colorado’s Motor Vehicle Theft rates.

Beginning late in 2022, Colorado’s month-to-month motor vehicle theft incidents showed a slight decrease that has become substantially more pronounced over the last few months. With Colorado already down 22% in auto thefts from January 1 – April 30 2023 compared to 2022, the effects of SB23-097 will help further reduce our communities’ vehicle theft rate.

SB23-097 is a sweeping act that significantly changes how MVT crimes are classified, including a focus on repeat and prolific offenders. Previously the severity of MVT crimes was directly tied to the value of the stolen vehicle. Vehicles of low value had misdemeanor or low-level felony charges tied to them, whereas high-value vehicles led to more severe felony classifications. Colorado has now entirely moved away from this value-tied crime structure in favor of a more equitable classification.

The new classification will create a new MVT in the 3rd Degree charge and Unauthorized use of a Motor Vehicle charge. The Unauthorized use of a Motor Vehicle is explicitly for the situation where a vehicle is not used in the commission of any crime barring traffic offenses, is returned to the owner within 24 hours, and is not damaged in the process of this unauthorized use.  Unauthorized use is a class 1 Misdemeanor with an aggravator to a Class 5 Felony for any second or subsequent offenses.

All other incidents of MVT will either be MVT in the 2nd or 1st degree, which are Class 4 and Class 3 felonies, respectively. Prolific offenders with two or more convictions or adjudications for MVT will be charged with MVT in the 1st degree. MVT in the 2nd degree will be for someone who obtains, receives, or exercises control over a stolen motor vehicle and knew or should have reasonably known such. This includes retaining the vehicle for a period of greater than 24 hours, damage of the vehicle, the use of the vehicle in a crime other than a traffic offense, except for eluding, the purposeful act of altering a vehicle VIN, plate, or sticker, the concealment of the vehicle through physical alteration, and the use of license plates on the vehicle that are not belonging to that vehicle.

“For far too many years, auto theft was perceived as a victimless crime when the perceived value of a vehicle was low. In reality, it had a tremendous impact on the livelihoods of the vehicle owners and other community members when these vehicles were used to commit additional crimes,” stated Col. Mathew C. Packard, chief of the Colorado State Patrol. “This law acknowledges every victim and will deter repeat offenders.”

With the passage of this legislation and other bills like SB23-257 that provides additional grant funding to law enforcement agencies, District Attorneys, prevention programs, intelligence systems, and victims’ resources. All contributing to the intense focus Colorado is placing on stopping motor vehicle theft.

“Overhauling the penalties associated with auto theft is an important part of changing Colorado’s auto theft landscape, but nothing can replace your role in protecting your vehicle,” explained Col. Packard.

What can you do? Keep taking the proper steps to secure your vehicle.

  • Lock your car and take your keys, every time. Establish those good routines of key management.
  • Keep your vehicle clean of incentivizing goodies like shopping bags, electronics, and tools.
  • Take additional measures if your vehicle is more than five years old, in an auto theft hot spot, or on the top ten most stolen list. Look into steering wheel locks, security/alarm systems, vehicle immobilizers, and environmental security factors.

Help law enforcement help you by making your vehicle a challenging target for thieves. Learn more about how to take these steps on

Colorado is moving towards stopping vehicle thefts in accordance with making Colorado one of the top ten safest states. The bright light of tomorrow is shining, and there is no place for car thieves in Colorado.


Since our origin in 1935, the Colorado State Patrol (CSP) has focused on preserving human life and protecting property within our communities. Our 1,100 members embody the core values of Honor, Duty, and Respect in their daily jobs.  In addition to our expertise in motor vehicle safety on the state’s roadways, the CSP is responsible for the Governor and other dignitaries’ protection, commercial motor vehicle enforcement, hazardous materials, homeland security, communications, investigative services, criminal interdiction, community education, aviation operations, and more. For additional information, visit us online at Colorado State Patrol or follow us on TwitterInstagram, YouTube, or Facebook.

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