Colorado Revised Statute§ 18-5-113 defines criminal impersonation. A person commits this offense by unlawfully pretending to be someone else in order to gain some benefit or to harm the subject of the impersonation.
The crime is also commonly referred to as false personation or false impersonation.
The language of 18-5-113 CRS states that:
(1) A person commits criminal impersonation if he or she knowingly:
(a) Assumes a false or fictitious identity or legal capacity, and in such identity or capacity he or she:
(I) Marries, or pretends to marry, or to sustain the marriage relation toward another without the connivance of the latter;
(II) Becomes bail or surety for a party in an action or proceeding, civil or criminal, before a court or officer authorized to take the bail or surety; or
(III) Confesses a judgment, or subscribes, verifies, publishes, acknowledges, or proves a written instrument which by law may be recorded, with the intent that the same may be delivered as true; or
(b) Assumes a false or fictitious identity or capacity, legal or other, and in such identity or capacity he or she:
(I) Performs an act that, if done by the person falsely impersonated, subjects such person to an action or special proceeding, civil or criminal, or to liability, charge, forfeiture, or penalty;
(II) Performs an act that, if done by the person falsely impersonated, might subject the person to an action or special proceeding, civil or criminal, or to liability, charge, forfeiture, or penalty; or
(III) Performs any other act with intent to unlawfully gain a benefit for himself, herself, or another or to injure or defraud another.
(2) (a) Criminal impersonation in violation of subsection (1)(a) or (1)(b)(I) of this section is a class 6 felony.
(b) Criminal impersonation in violation of subsection (1)(b)(II) of this section is a class 1 misdemeanor.
(c) Criminal impersonation in violation of subsection (1)(b)(III) of this section is a class 2 misdemeanor.
(3) For the purposes of subsection (1) of this section, using false or fictitious personal identifying information, as defined in section 18-5-901 (13), shall constitute the assumption of a false or fictitious identity or capacity.
Below, our Denver Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss the following frequently asked questions about criminal impersonation for Colorado residents:
- 1. Is it a criminal offense to impersonate someone else?
- 2. Is criminal impersonation a felony in Colorado?
- 3. What defenses can I raise to this charge?
- 4. Is there a related offense to criminal impersonation?
Colorado law prohibits pretending to be someone else to gain some benefit or to harm the subject of the impersonation.
Specifically, criminal impersonation is defined as knowingly assuming a fake identity to either:
- get married
- confess a judgment
- become bail or surety for someone in a legal proceeding
- harm the falsely impersonated person
- unlawfully gain a benefit for him/herself or
- defraud or injure another person.
A few examples of this crime include:
- Sam posts bail with the local court to get his friend out of jail after the friend’s assault arrest. However, to do that, he poses as his brother, using his ID and credit card to do it. Sam has committed the offense of criminal impersonation, and will face Class 6 felony penalties if he does not defend his criminal case.
- Carolyn poses as a former friend she dislikes, but looks very similar to. She enters a jewelry store, using her former friend’s ID to get a line of credit to purchase an expensive bracelet. She gives the store all of her former friend’s information and places the debt on her.
- John is engaged to marry Fiona, and tells her he went to the court to get a marriage license. He never gets the license because he is already married to another person. He goes through with the wedding ceremony, but lies when he says the marriage certificate is filed and they are both legally married.1
It is a class 6 felony in Colorado to
- get married,
- confess a judgment,
- become a bail or surety, or
- subject another to a liability while knowingly assuming a false or fictitious identity.
Class 6 felonies carry:
- 1 year to 18 months in prison (plus 1 year of mandatory parole), and/or
- $1,000 to $100,000 in fines.
It is a class 1 misdemeanor to knowingly assume a false or fictitious identity and do something that might subject other to a liability.
Class 1 misdemeanors carry:
- Up to 364 days in jail, and/or
- Up to $1,000 in fines
And it is a class 2 misdemeanor to knowingly assume a false or fictitious identity to perform any other act with the intent to gain a benefit unlawfully or to injure or defraud another.
Class 2 misdemeanors are punishable by:
- Up to 120 days in jail, and/or
- Up to $750 in fines.2
You can learn more about the differences between a felony and a misdemeanor here.
As a felon, the convicted person will have difficulty:
- passing a background check;
- applying for certain licenses;
- finding and maintaining employment;
- obtaining a loan through a bank or other lender; and
- facing assumptions about your trustworthiness and character.
While these are not criminal penalties, they can have as much or more an impact on your life as any prison sentence. If you plead guilty to this offense without legal representation, you could face criminal penalties you would not otherwise have to.
A person can defend himself or herself against this false identity charge in a number of ways with the help of experienced legal help.
To be convicted of criminal impersonation, an impersonation must occur. It seems obvious, but too often the conduct police and prosecutors call impersonation does not fit the definition, or in the case of marriage, is done with the knowledge of the other party.
Each of these facts is important, and could lead to a successful defense of your criminal charges.
To prove that a person has committed this offense, impersonation alone is not enough. Another one of the listed acts must also occur, and it must also be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. If one of those acts did not occur, or it cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, the offense of criminal impersonation did not occur.
If the impersonation did occur, but there was no intent to defraud, then no crime has occurred. The person accused of the crime must have committed the act in order to gain some benefit to him or herself.
Example: Clark dresses as his friend Andy, who he looks very similar to, to play a friendly prank on one of their mutual teachers. It is simply as a joke, and Clark never takes a test or gains any benefit from the impersonation. Clark cannot be charged criminally, as he never had an intent to defraud.
The related offense of impersonating a peace officer also exists under Colorado criminal law. A person commits this offense if he or she:
- falsely pretends to be a police officer, and
- performs an act while pretending that role.3
Impersonating a peace officer is a Class 6 felony in this state. Penalties for the offense include:
- twelve to 18 months in jail;
- a fine of $1,000 up to a maximum of $100,000; and
- mandatory parole period of one year.
- CRS 18-5-113 (Criminal Impersonation); see also Montes-Rodriguez v. People, (Colo. 2010) 241 P.3d 924; see also Alvarado v. People, (Colo. 2006) 132 P.3d 1205; see also People v. Van De Weghe, (2012) COA 204, 312 P.3d 231.
- CRS 18-1.3-401 (Felonies classified–presumptive penalties). See also Veloz-Luvevano v. Lynch, (10th Cir. 2015) 799 F.3d 1308. Prior to March 1, 2022, criminal impersonation was always a class 6 felony. SB21-271.
- CRS 18-8-112 (Impersonating a Peace Officer).