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What is the statute of limitations for forgery in Colorado?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Jan 07, 2020 | 0 Comments

Colorado prosecutors can bring forgery charges at any time. There is no statute of limitations. 16-5-401 C.R.S. states:

[A]ny forgery regardless of the penalty provided: No limit

However, it is arguable that this law applies only to felonies. After this section, the statute states:

  • Other felonies: Three years;
  • Misdemeanors: Eighteen months

That "other" appears before "felonies" and not "misdemeanors" is striking. This suggests the prior section applies only to felony forgery crimes. (No case law interprets this language.)

Therefore, we argue that prosecutors cannot press misdemeanor forgery charges once 18 months have passed.

1. What is forgery?

Forgery occurs when someone makes or alters a written instrument "with intent to defraud." Merely possessing a forged instrument may be forgery if the defendant has fraudulent intent. Common examples of forged documents include:

  • A doctored will;
  • An unemployment insurance application with a fake SSN;
  • A false letter of recommendation;
  • A doctored tax return; or
  • Made-up school transcripts.

2. What are the penalties?

It depends on the specific forgery crime:

 Forgery offenses

Colorado penalties

Forgery (18-5-102 C.R.S.)

Class 5 felony:

  • 1 to 3 years in Colorado State Prison (with a mandatory parole period of 2 years), and/or
  • $1,000 to $100,000 in fines

Second-degree forgery (18-5-104 C.R.S.)

Class 1 misdemeanor:

  • 6 to 18 months in jail, and/or
  • $500 to $5,000 in fines

Use of forged academic record (18-5-104.5 C.R.S.)

Class 1 misdemeanor:

  • 6 to 18 months in jail, and/or
  • $500 to $5,000 in fines

Criminal possession of a forged instrument (18-5-105 C.R.S.)

Class 6 felony:

  • 1 year to 18 months in prison (with a mandatory parole period of 1 year), and/or
  • $1,000 to $100,000 in fines

Criminal possession of second degree forged instrument (18-5-107 C.R.S.)

Class 2 misdemeanor:

  • 3 to 12 months in jail, and/or
  • $250 to $1,000 in fines

Criminal possession of forgery devices (18-5-109 C.R.S.)

Class 6 felony:

  • 1 year to 18 months in prison (with a mandatory parole period of 1 year), and/or
  • $1,000 to $100,000 in fines

Criminal simulation (18-5-110 C.R.S.)

Class 1 misdemeanor:

  • 6 to 18 months in jail, and/or
  • $500 to $5,000 in fines

Trademark counterfeiting (18-5-110.5 C.R.S.)

Class 2 misdemeanor (for first-time offense):

  • 3 to 12 months in jail, and/or
  • $250 to $1,000 in fines

Class 1 misdemeanor (for subsequent offenses):

  • 6 to 18 months in jail, and/or
  • $500 to $5,000 in fines

Obtaining signature by deception (18-5-112 C.R.S.)

Class 2 misdemeanor:

  • 3 to 12 months in jail, and/or
  • $250 to $1,000 in fines

Criminal impersonation (18-5-113 C.R.S.)

Class 6 felony:

  • 1 year to 18 months in prison (with a mandatory parole period of 1 year), and/or
  • $1,000 to $100,000 in fines

Offering a false instrument for recording (18-5-114 C.R.S.)

Class 5 felony (in the first degree):

  • 1 to 3 years in prison (with a mandatory parole period of 2 years), and/or
  • $1,000 to $100,000 in fines

Class 1 misdemeanor (in the second degree):

  • 6 to 18 months in jail, and/or
  • Fines of $500 to $5,000

Controlled substances - inducing consumption by fraudulent means (18-5-116 C.R.S.)

Class 4 felony:

  • 2 to 6 years in prison (with a mandatory parole period of 3 years), and/or
  • Fines of $2,000 to $500,000

3. What are the defenses?

 Possible defenses to forgery charges include:

  1. The defendant had no intent to defraud;
  2. The document was authentic; and/or
  3. The police conducted an illegal search.

In any case, the D.A. has the burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a very high bar. If the D.A. has insufficient evidence, the charges should be dropped.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.

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