§ 18-5-205 CRS is the Colorado statute that defines the crime of check fraud. This section makes it a crime to pass a bad check with the intention of defrauding someone for the payment of goods or services. Check fraud may result in petty offense, misdemeanor or felony charges depending on the amount of money involved.
In this article, our Denver Colorado criminal defense lawyers will address:
- 1. What is check fraud in Colorado?
- 2. What are the penalties for check fraud in Colorado?
- 3. What are some defenses to check fraud charges in Colorado?
- 4. Related Offenses
1. What is check fraud in Colorado?
Intending to defraud someone by using a check to pay for something without sufficient funds is check fraud. “Any person, knowing he has insufficient funds with the drawee, who, with intent to defraud, issues a check for the payment of services, wages, salary, commissions, labor, rent, money, property, or other things of value, commits fraud by check.”1
“Insufficient funds” means the drawer does not have enough money on account with the bank to cover the check. A check dishonored for “no account” is also considered to be dishonored for insufficient funds.2
2. What are the penalties for check fraud in Colorado?
The penalties for check fraud depend on the value of fraud involved and the type of fraud. Under C.R.S. 18-5-205, the class of criminal offense for some check fraud is determined in part by the value of theft involved.
|Value of Check Fraud||Class of Criminal Offense||Penalties|
|Less than $300||Petty Offense||Up to 10 days in jail and/or up to $300|
|$300 to less than $1,000||Class 2 Misdemeanor||Up to 120 days in jail and/or up to $750|
|$1,000 to less than $2,000||Class 1 Misdemeanor||Up to 364 days jail and/or up to $1,000|
|$2,000 to less than $5,000||Class 6 Felony||12 to 18 months in prison and/or $1,000 to $100,000|
|$5,000 to less than $20,000||Class 5 Felony||1 to 3 years in prison and/or $1,000 to $100,000|
|$20,000 to less than $100,000||Class 4 Felony||2 to 6 years in prison and/or $2,000 to $500,000|
|$100,000 to less than $1,000,000||Class 3 Felony||4 to 12 years in prison and/or $3,000 to $750,000|
|$1,000,000 or more||Class 2 Felony||8 to 24 years in prison and/or $5,000 to $1 million|
If an individual is involved in two or more incidents of check fraud within a 60-day period, the value of the fraud will be combined and charged as a single offense.3
Check fraud where the defendant had no bank account, or the account was closed for 30-days or more is also a class 6 felony, with penalties including 12 to 18 months in jail and a fine of up to $100,000.4
Opening up a checking account using false identification or an assumed name in order to commit check fraud is a class 2 misdemeanor. Penalties include up to 120 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $750.5
In addition to criminal penalties, if a deferred prosecution is available, the court may require the defendant to pay restitution on all unpaid checks as a condition for treatment or rehabilitation.6
3. What are some defenses to check fraud charges in Colorado?
In order for the prosecutor to prove you are guilty of check fraud, they have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you intended to commit fraud. This requires establishing a culpable state of mind.
Except in the case of a postdated check, the defendant’s knowledge that they have insufficient funds may be presumed if:
- They do not have an account with the bank or other drawee at the time the bad check is issued; or
- They have insufficient funds upon deposit with the bank or other drawee to pay the check 30 days after the bad check is issued.7
4. Related Offenses
Check fraud may involve other related offenses. Passing a bad check even without the intent to defraud someone is also a criminal offense. Identity theft charges may also be involved when another person’s information was used to pass off a fraudulent check. It may also involve general theft or larceny charges.
4.1 Identity Theft C.R.S. 18-5-902
In Colorado, it is a criminal offense to use another person’s personal or financial identifying information to obtain anything of value. This includes using another person’s identity in a check transaction to commit check fraud. Identity theft can be a felony or a misdemeanor.
4.2 Bad Checks C.R.S. 18-5-512
Under Colorado law, it is a crime to pay with a check knowing that you do not have enough money to cover the funds. The crime of issuing bad checks in Colorado is a petty offense that carries penalties of up to 10 days in jail and $300 in fines. In addition, the defendant may have to pay restitution for the amount of the bad check.
4.3 Theft/Larceny C.R.S. 18-4-401
The crime of theft or larceny in Colorado involves using someone else’s property in a manner that deprives the other person permanently of the use or benefit of the property. Writing bad checks to obtain things of value may be considered a type of theft. The punishment for theft is based on the value of the property stolen.
- C.R.S. 18-5-205(2). Note that check fraud penalties were different prior to March 1, 2022. SB21-271.
- C.R.S. 18-5-205(1)(d)
- C.R.S. 18-5-205(3)
- C.R.S. 18-5-205(3)(e)
- C.R.S. 18-5-205(5)
- C.R.S. 18-5-205(6)
- C.R.S. 18-5-205(8)