Rep. Claire Levy (D-Boulder) has announced that she would introduce legislation to resolve a dispute over a recommendation by the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice to repeal Colorado's newspaper theft statute.
Under current law, anyone who takes more than five copies of a free distribution newspaper with the intent to prevent other people from reading that edition is guilty of newspaper theft. Rep. Levy's proposal will change the name of the crime to interference with the lawful distribution of a newspaper and move the offense from the theft section of the criminal code.
"Colorado's theft laws are based on established values of the things that are stolen," Rep. Levy said. "The existing law is flawed because true value cannot reasonably be established for a product that is distributed without cost. Under this new proposal, we recognize that the people who read, advertise in and publish newspapers are harmed when papers are taken to deprive people of access to information, but we do so in a way that is more consistent with our other laws."
The repeal recommendation was part of an overall commission review of theft laws in the state. The Colorado Press Association opposed the recommendation to effectively decriminalize the act of taking newspapers and worked with Rep. Levy on the compromise.
"We told the CCJJ that if there was a better way to address this issue, we were happy to work with them as long as the underlying crime of taking newspapers to deprive the public of access to the information contained in them remained against the law," said Samantha Johnston, executive director of the Colorado Press Association. "We appreciate Rep. Levy's work to find a solution that addresses everyone's concerns."
Rep. Levy will introduce legislation in January to repeal the newspaper theft statute and replace it with the crime of interference with the lawful distribution of a newspaper.