Is it illegal to impersonate someone in Colorado?

Posted by Neil Shouse | May 22, 2019 | 0 Comments

Yes, in certain circumstances if the impersonator has an intent to defraud.


A person violates Colorado's criminal impersonation laws (C.R.S. 18-5-113) by knowingly assuming a false identity while doing either of the following five things:

  1. signing a recordable legal document and with intent to pass it off as true;
  2. posting bail for someone;
  3. marrying (or pretending to marry) another person who is ignorant of the false impersonation;
  4. doing anything may subject the person being impersonated to a legal or financial penalty; or
  5. doing anything with the intention to illegally gain a benefit for him/herself or to defraud or harm another person

Therefore, impersonating someone becomes a crime if the purpose of the impersonation is meant to benefit the impersonator or harm someone else. Examples include:

  • Making a purchase in another person's name and without the other person's permission.
  • Breaking the law in the guise of another person in order to get the other person into trouble.
  • Co-signing a loan application as another person in order to get accepted.

But dressing up as someone else for a Halloween costume is almost always legal as long as no other crimes are being committed.

Note that a person commits the related Colorado crime of impersonating a peace officer (C.R.S. 18-5-112) by both:

  • falsely pretending to be an officer of the law, and
  • performing an act while pretending that role

For example, donning a police uniform and conducting Terry stops ("stop and frisks") would be criminal impersonation. But simply showing up to a costume party in a police costume would be legal.


The most effective way to fight criminal impersonation allegations turns on the unique circumstances of each case. Three common defenses include the following:

  1. No impersonation occurred;
  2. Even if the defendant did impersonate someone, no underlying crime (listed above) occurred; or
  3. Even if the defendant did impersonate someone, he/she had no intent to defraud.

In some cases, it may be a defense that the defendant had the other person's consent to impersonate him/her. But this may not be a sufficient defense if the impersonation still caused others harm or unjustly enriched the defendant.

In every criminal case, the D.A. has the burden to prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Typical evidence in these types of cases may include:

  • eyewitness testimony
  • documents signed by the alleged impersonator
  • video or audio recordings
  • written communications (such as text messages or emails)


Criminal impersonation is generally a class 6 felony in Colorado. The punishment includes:

  • 1 year to 18 months in Colorado Prison;
  • a fine of $1,000 to $100,000; and
  • mandatory 1 year of parole

Impersonating a peace officer is also a class 6 felony in Colorado. The punishment includes:

  • 1 year to 18 months in prison;
  • a fine of $1,000 to $100,000; and
  • mandatory 1 year of parole

Meanwhile, impersonating a public servant other than a peace officer is only a class 3 misdemeanor in Colorado. The punishment includes:

  • up to 6 months in jail; and/or
  • a fine of $50 to $750

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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