Credit Card Fraud in Colorado

In Colorado, the unauthorized possession or use of a credit card is a criminal offense. Credit card fraud in Colorado can result in misdemeanor or felony charges, depending on the amount of fraud involved and the type of credit card fraud. In this article, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers will address:

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In Colorado, the unauthorized possession or use of a credit card is a criminal offense.

1. What is credit card fraud in Colorado?

Credit card fraud involves attempting to defraud a seller, credit card holder, or credit card company through the unauthorized use of a credit card. This involves fraudulently obtaining a credit card in someone else's name, using a stolen credit card, or even possession of a lost or mistakenly delivered credit card. Credit card fraud generally falls under a number of Colorado criminal statutes, including:

  • Criminal Possession of a Financial Device C.R.S. 18-5-903
  • Unauthorized Use of a Financial Device C.R.S. 18-5-702
  • Purchase on Credit to Defraud C.R.S. 18-5-207
  • Identity Theft C.R.S. 18-5-902

A credit card is considered a “financial device” under Colorado law. A 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 credit or debit cards.1

1.1. Criminal Possession of a Financial Device C.R.S. 18-5-903

A person commits criminal possession of a financial device if he or she has any financial device in their possession they reasonably should know is lost, stolen, or delivered by mistake. This means, if you find a lost credit card or another person's credit card is mistakenly delivered to your address and you keep the card, you may be in criminal possession of a financial device.

To avoid possible criminal charges if you find a credit card, you may wish to contact the bank provider listed on the card to report it found or turn in the card at the location it was found.

1.2. Unauthorized Use of a Financial Device C.R.S. 18-5-702

Using another person's credit card or debit card is unauthorized use of a financial device. A person commits unauthorized use of a financial device if, with the intent to defraud, he or she uses a credit card or debit card to obtain cash, credit, property, services, or to make a financial payment. This includes using an expired or canceled card, or using a card without authorization.

2. What are the penalties for credit card fraud in Colorado?

2.1. Penalties for Criminal Possession of a Financial Device

Criminal possession of a credit card or debit card is a class 1 misdemeanor. Penalties for criminal possession of a financial device include from 6 to 18 months in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.2

Possession of two or more credit cards, of one or more individuals, is a felony. Possession of two or more financial devices is a class 6 felony. Penalties include 12 to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. There is also a mandatory parole period of 1 year.3

Possession of four or more financial devices, at least two of which are issued to different people is a class 5 felony. Penalties include 1 to 3 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. There is also a mandatory parole period of 2 years.4

2.2. Penalties for Unauthorized Use of a Financial Device

The penalties for unauthorized credit card fraud depend on the value of fraud involved.

Value of Credit Card Fraud

Class of Criminal Offense

Penalties

Less than $50

Class 1 Petty Offense

Up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $500

$50 or more but less than $300

Class 3 Misdemeanor

Up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $750

$300 or more but less than $750

Class 2 Misdemeanor

3 to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000

$750 or more but less than $2,000

Class 1 Misdemeanor

6 to 18 months in jail and a fine of up to $5,000

$2,000 or more but less than $5,000

Class 6 Felony

12 to 18 months in jail and a fine of up to $100,000

$5,000 or more but less than $20,000

Class 5 Felony

1 to 3 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000

$20,000 or more but less than $100,000

Class 4 Felony

2 to 6 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000

$100,000 or more but less than $1 million

Class 3 Felony

4 to 12 years in prison and a fine of up to $750,000

$1 million or more

Class 2 Felony

8 to 24 years in prison and a fine of up to $1,000,000

If an individual is involved in two or more incidents of credit card fraud within a 6-month period, the value of the fraud will be combined and charged as a single offense.5

3. What are defenses to credit card fraud charges in Colorado?

If you are facing criminal credit card fraud charges, you may have a number of legal defenses available. The prosecutor may be required to show the defendant had both the knowledge of criminal activity AND criminal intent. This allows a number of defenses to be drawn, some of which include:

  • You had permission to use the credit card;
  • You have legal authority to possess the financial or personal information;
  • You did not realize you were in possession of a lost or stolen card;
  • You did not intend to defraud anyone; or
  • You were trying to return a lost credit card you found.

4. Related Offenses

Credit card fraud may involve other related offenses, including identity theft, purchase on credit to defraud, and larceny charges. If credit card fraud involved using another person's identity, it may be considered identity theft. Credit card fraud may also involve general theft, fraud, 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 to commit credit card fraud. Identity theft is a class 4 felony in Colorado. Penalties for identity theft include 2 to 6 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.

4.2. Theft/Larceny C.R.S. 18-4-401

Theft, or larceny, 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 credit cards 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. Charges range from petty offenses (items less than $50) to a class 2 felony (items valued at greater than one million dollars).

4.3. Purchase on Credit to Defraud C.R.S. 18-5-207

A person who purchases any personal property on credit, and before paying for it, sells or disposes of the property with the intent to defraud commits a class 2 misdemeanor. Purchase on credit to defraud is punishable by 3 to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

Call us for help...

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If you have been accused of credit card fraud, please contact us at Colorado Legal Defense Group. Our caring Colorado defense attorneys have many years of experience representing clients who have been charged with criminal fraud offenses. We are among the best Colorado criminal defense attorneys to call. Contact us today for a free consultation by phone or in-person or in our Denver law office.


Legal References

  1. C.R.S. 18-5-901(6)
  2. C.R.S. 18-5-903(2)(a)
  3. C.R.S. 18-5-903(2)(b)
  4. C.R.S. 18-5-903(2)(c)
  5. C.R.S. 18-5-702(3)

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