A Careful Review of Colorado’s Identity Theft Laws
The crime of identity theft has been in the news in recent years. Most crimes that are referred to as identity theft have been committed for years under different names. For example, a thief who stole your wallet and used your credit card, or wrote a couple of checks on your account, was charged with theft; now, that defendant is considered to have committed the crime of identity theft. In the past, a thief might steal financial information about you by going through your trash; now, while many identity thieves still ‘dumpster dive’ other identity thieves steal this information by hacking into computers or web sites that contain this information. It is not that criminals are committing new offenses; it is that criminal are thinking up new ways to commit old offenses. The legislature, in order to make sure that these new ways of committing old crimes did not go unpunished, added a section to the criminal code in 2006 titled Identity Theft And Related Offenses.
C.R.S. ¤ 18-5-902 describes when a person commits identity theft. First, a person commits identity theft when he or she knowingly uses someone else’s personal identifying information, financial identifying information, or financial device without permission or authority in order to obtain cash, credit, property, services, or any other thing of value. Personal identifying information includes a name, a date of birth, a social security number, a password, a passport number, or any other identification number. Financial identifying information includes credit card numbers, debit card numbers, checking account numbers, routing numbers, or other personal identification numbers.
Financial devices include credit cards, banking cards, debit cards, checks, or money orders. Second, a person also commits identity theft when he or she possesses this type of information or device with the intent to use it or aid or permit someone else to use it to obtain cash, credit, property, services, or any other thing of value. Third, a person who falsely makes, completes, alters, transfers, passes, or delivers a written instrument or financial device containing any personal or financial identifying information of another with the intent to defraud commits identity theft. Fourth, knowingly possessing the personal or financial identifying information of another without permission or without lawful authority in order to apply for or complete an application for a financial device or other extension of credit constitutes identity theft. Possessing this information with the intent to obtain a government-issued document also constitutes identity theft. Finally, any person who attempts, conspires with another, or solicits another to commit any of these acts also commits identity theft.
Identity theft is a class four felony. C.R.S. ¤ 18-5-902(2). If a person is convicted of identity theft under this statute, the court must sentence the defendant to DOC for at least the minimum of the presumptive range and may sentence the defendant to a maximum of twice the presumptive range if he or she has a prior conviction for another identity theft or related crime. C.R.S. ¤ 18-5-902(3).
Another related crime is the criminal possession of a financial device, as described in C.R.S. ¤ 18-5-903. A person commits criminal possession of a financial device if he or she possesses any financial device that he or she knows, or reasonably should know, is lost, stolen, or delivered under mistake as to the identity or address of the account holder. Criminal possession of one financial device is a class one misdemeanor. C.R.S. ¤ 18-5-903(2)(a). Criminal possession of two or more financial devices is a class six felony. C.R.S. ¤ 18-5-903(2)(b). Finally, criminal possession of four or more financial devices, of which at least two are issued to different account holders, is a class five felony. C.R.S. ¤ 18-5-903(2)(c).
Gathering identity information by deception is committed when a person knowingly makes or conveys a materially false statement, without permission or lawful authority, with the intent to obtain, record, or access the personal identifying information of another. C.R.S. ¤ 18-5-904(1). Gathering identity information by deception is a class five felony. C.R.S. ¤ 18-5-904(2).
Finally, it is a crime to possess any tools, equipment, computers, computer networks, scanners, printers, or any other article adapted, designed, or commonly used for committing or facilitating the commission of identity theft if that person intends to use those tools in the commission of identity theft. C.R.S. ¤ 18-5-905(1). Possession of identity theft tools is also a class five felony. C.R.S. ¤ 18-5-905(2).
It is also important to note that the Colorado legislature has recognized the hardship that is imposed on a victim when he or she is mistakenly associated with a criminal arrest, summons, complaint, indictment, or conviction. See C.R.S. ¤ 16-5-103. Therefore, the legislature has determined that these victims are to be considered victims of identity theft, and has set forth a procedure for determining factual innocence in an attempt to clear their names. C.R.S. ¤ 16-5-103.
Finally, the Colorado legislature has recognized the detrimental consequences suffered by Colorado citizens and businesses as a result of identity theft. Because the general assembly recognizes the limited resources of local law enforcement agencies, it has decided to devote state resources to enhancing the investigation and prosecution of identity theft. See C.R.S. ¤ 24-33.5-1701 et. seq.
Colorado Identity Theft Criminal Defense