Identity Theft
(Colorado 18-5-902 C.R.S.)

black-gloved fingers taking social security card out of someone's wallet

Colorado's Identity Theft Law

You commit identity theft in violation of Section 18-5-902 of the Colorado Revised Statutes when you knowingly use another person's personal or financial identifying information, or a device such as their check or credit card, to make a payment or obtain anything of value.

Identity theft is a Colorado class 4 felony that can be punished by as much as 6 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $500,000.

Fortunately, there are numerous ways to defend against Colorado identity theft charges, including (but not limited to):

  • You didn't know the info you tried to use belonged to an actual person;
  • You had the other person's permission to use their information;
  • You didn't intend to defraud anyone;
  • You didn't use the info to obtain anything of value; or
  • You were the victim of police misconduct or the evidence against you was found during an illegal search.

To help you better understand Colorado's complicated identity theft law, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers explain:

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1. What constitutes identity theft in Colorado?

18-5-902 C.R.S. is Colorado's criminal law against identity theft. Under 18-5-902 C.R.S., you commit identity theft when:

  • You knowingly use someone else's personal identifying information, financial identifying information, or financial device without permission or lawful authority with the intent to obtain cash, credit, property, services, or any other thing of value or to make a financial payment; or
  • You knowingly possess someone else's personal identifying information, financial identifying information, or financial device without permission or lawful authority, with the intent to use or to aid or permit some other person to use such information or device to obtain cash, credit, property, services, or any other thing of value or to make a financial payment; or
  • With the intent to defraud, you falsely make, complete, alter, or utter a written instrument or financial device containing any personal identifying information or financial identifying information of another; or
  • You knowingly possess the personal identifying information or financial identifying information of another without permission or lawful authority to use in applying for or completing an application for a financial device or other extension of credit; or
  • You knowingly use or possess the personal identifying information of another without permission or lawful authority with the intent to obtain a government-issued document.

2. Legal definitions

2.1. Knowingly

You act “knowingly” with respect to conduct or to a circumstance described by a statute defining an offense when you are aware that your conduct is of such nature or that such circumstance exists.[1]

To prove you are guilty of identity theft, the prosecution must show that:

  1. You knowingly used the identifying information or financial device of another, AND 
  2. You knew that such identifying information or financial device belonged to actual person.[2]
  • Example: Jenna makes up a false social security number on an apartment rental application, thinking the landlord won't actually check her financial records. However, the landlord runs a credit report and discovers that the social security number actually belongs to another person. But since Jenna didn't know this, she didn't knowingly use someone else's identifying info and she is not guilty of identity theft.

2.2. Personal identifying information

“Personal identifying information” means information that may be used, alone or in conjunction with any other information, to identify a specific individual, including but not limited to a name; a date of birth; a social security number; a password; a pass code; an official, government-issued driver's license or identification card number; a government passport number; biometric data; or an employer, student, or military identification number.[3]

2.3. Financial identifying information

“Financial identifying information” means any of the following that can be used, alone or in conjunction with any other information, to obtain cash, credit, property, services, or any other thing of value or to make a financial payment:

  • A personal identification number, credit card number, banking card number, checking account number, debit card number, electronic fund transfer card number, guaranteed check card number, or routing number; or
  • A number representing a financial account or a number affecting the financial interest, standing, or obligation of or to the account holder.[4]

2.4. Financial device

“Financial device” means any instrument or device that can be used to obtain cash, credit, property, services, or any other thing of value or to make financial payments, including but not limited to:

  • A credit card, banking card, debit card, electronic fund transfer card, or guaranteed check card;
  • A check;
  •  A negotiable order of withdrawal;
  • A share draft; or
  • A money order.[5]

2.5. Falsely make

To “falsely make” a written instrument or financial device means to make or draw a written instrument or financial device, whether it be in complete or incomplete form, that purports to be an authentic creation of its ostensible maker, but that is not, either because the ostensible maker is fictitious or because, if real, the ostensible maker did not authorize the making or the drawing of the written instrument or financial device.[6]

2.6. Falsely complete

To “falsely complete” a written instrument or financial device means:

  • To transform an incomplete written instrument or financial device into a complete one by adding, inserting, or changing matter without the authority of anyone entitled to grant that authority, so that the complete written instrument or financial device falsely appears or purports to be in all respects an authentic creation of or fully authorized by its ostensible maker; or
  • To transform an incomplete written instrument or financial device into a complete one by adding or inserting materially false information or adding or inserting a materially false statement. A materially false statement is a false assertion that affects the action, conduct, or decision of the person who receives or is intended to receive the asserted information in a manner that directly or indirectly benefits the person making the assertion.[7]

2.7. Falsely alter

To “falsely alter” a written instrument or financial device means to change a written instrument or financial device without the authority of anyone entitled to grant such authority, whether it be in complete or incomplete form, by means of erasure, obliteration, deletion, insertion of new matter, transposition of matter, or any other means, so that the written instrument or financial device in its thus altered form falsely appears or purports to be in all respects an authentic creation of or fully authorized by its ostensible maker.[8]

2.8. Utter

“Utter” means to transfer, pass, or deliver, or to attempt or cause to be transferred, passed, or delivered, to another person a written instrument or financial device, article, or thing.[9]

3. Penalties for Colorado identity theft

Identity theft is a Colorado class 4 felony. Consequences of identity theft can include:

  • 2-6 years in prison (with 3 years mandatory parole), and/or
  • A fine of $2,000-$500,000.

However, the prison time for identity theft is mandatory if:

  1. You are convicted of identity theft or of attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit identity theft; AND
  2. You have a prior conviction in Colorado or any other state, the United States, or any other territory subject to the jurisdiction of the United States that would constitute identity theft or a related offense if committed in this state, or for attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit such an offense.

In addition, the maximum prison sentence for identity theft with a prior increases to 12 years.

4. Identity theft defenses

Because there are so many parts to Colorado's law on identity theft, there are numerous defenses, all of which depend on the specific facts of your case. Our knowledgeable Colorado fraud attorneys can help you decide which is the best defense to your Colorado identity theft charges.

However, common defenses to Colorado identity theft charges include (but are not limited to):

  • You didn't knowingly use someone else's personal or financial identifying information or financial device;
  • You didn't know that the identifying information you used belonged to an actual person;
  • You used someone else's information, but it wasn't done with that person's permission;
  • You didn't intend to defraud anyone;
  • You weren't the one who completely or altered the written instrument or financial device; or
  • The evidence against you was obtained during an illegal search and seizure.

Call us for help…

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If you or someone you know has been accused of identity theft, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation.

Our caring Colorado criminal lawyers know that there are two sides to every story – we'll make sure the prosecutor and, if necessary, the jury hear yours.

To find out how we can fight for you, simply fill out the confidential form on this page. Or call us at our centrally located Denver home office:

Colorado Legal Defense Group
1400 16th Street
16 Market Square
Denver CO 80202
720-955-6112

Legal references:

  1. 18-1-501 (6) C.R.S.
  2. People v. Perez, 2016, 367 P.3d 695; People v. Jauch, App.2013, 2013 WL 4713554, certiorari denied 2014.
  3. 18-5-901 (13) C.R.S.
  4. 18-5-901 (7) C.R.S.
  5. 18-5-901 (6) C.R.S.
  6. 18-5-901 (5) C.R.S.
  7. 18-5-901 (4) C.R.S.
  8. 18-5-901 (3) C.R.S.
  9. 18-5-901 (14) C.R.S.

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