What Happens in an Identity Theft Investigation?

Categories: Criminal Defense

What Happens in an Identity Theft InvestigationRates of identity theft have significantly increased over the past three years, and Colorado has seen it grow more than the national average. Reports indicate that Colorado ranks 27th for identity theft reports and 8th for fraud and other related offenses. Given these statistics, Colorado law enforcement and consumer protection agencies have taken a hardline approach to prosecuting those charged with identity theft. 

In Colorado, identity theft can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. As such, the consequences can vary but range in severity. Those facing these charges should consult with an experienced defense lawyer. Attorney Mark S. Rubinstein has extensive experience successfully representing those accused of identity theft. Contact Mark S. Rubinstein, P.C., to discuss legal representation for identity theft cases.

Colorado Identity Theft Charges

Under CRS § 18-5-902, identity theft refers to “knowingly using another person’s personal or financial identifying information, or financial device without permission or lawful authority with the intent” to secure cash, credit, property, services, or any other thing of value or to make a financial payment. Personal information may include the following:

  • Bank account numbers,
  • Credit card information,
  • Driver’s license numbers,
  • Online account information, and
  • Social Security numbers. 

The consequences and penalties for identity theft in Colorado largely hinge on the unique facts and circumstances of the case.

Felony Identity Theft Charges Colorado

Identity theft is generally a class 4 felony in Colorado. If you are convicted of a class 4 felony identity theft charge, you could face the following penalties 

  • Imprisonment for two to six years, with three years mandatory parole; and
  • A $2,000-$500,000 fine. 

The judge could sentence you to one or both of these penalties. In addition, felony identity theft carries a mandatory prison sentence if the following applies:

  • If you are convicted of identity theft or of an attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit identity theft, and
  • If you have a prior identity theft or related conviction in Colorado or any other state, or any other territory subject to the jurisdiction of the United States or for the attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit such an offense.

Moreover, if you possess three or more financial devices or the financial information of three or more people—the attorney general or county district attorney could prosecute the offense as a class 6 felony.

Misdemeanor Identity Theft Charges 

Sometimes, the government may charge identity theft as a class 2 misdemeanor. The consequences of misdemeanor offenses in Colorado include the following: 

  • Up to 120 days in jail,
  • Up to $750 in fines, or
  • A combination of jail and fines up to these maximums.

It is important to note that possession of identity theft tools and criminal possession of a financial device are distinct offenses. As such, you may face additional penalties if you violate these statutes. 

Identity Theft Investigation Process 

Identity theft investigations often begin when a person reports potential identity theft to their local law enforcement agency. The local department often will refer the victim to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation’s “Identity Theft, Fraud, and Cyber Crimes Victim Support” hotline. In addition, government agencies often advise those who suspect identity theft to contact the following entities:

  • Financial institutions,
  • Identitytheft.gov,
  • Federal Trade Commission,
  • Phone company,
  • Post office,
  • Social Security Administration, and
  • State Department. 

These institutions work in tandem to identify the potential offender. However, it is essential to note that many advanced identity theft offenders go to great lengths to protect themselves. In some cases, they may be able to hide their identity by using a third party’s information to appear as the purported offender. Therefore, you could mistakenly be the target of an identity theft investigation, even if you did not commit the crime. Therefore, anyone under investigation for identity theft should consult an attorney immediately. 

Defenses to Identity Theft Charges in Colorado 

Securing competent, effective, and experienced legal representation for identity theft cases is crucial to achieving a favorable and just outcome. An attorney can work with clients to determine the best defense strategies for identity theft charges. Some common defenses against identity theft charges include arguing the following: 

  • The government failed to prove you knowingly used someone else’s personal or financial information or device;
  • You did not know that the information you used belonged to an actual person;
  • You used someone else’s information, but it was done with the other individual’s permission; or
  • The evidence the government used against you was obtained through an illegal search or seizure. 

The viability and success of these defenses depends on various factors. Some factors include the following:

  • The circumstances of the alleged identity theft,
  • Your criminal history,
  • Whether the government is pursuing any related theft charges, and 
  • Your attorney’s expertise in defending against identity theft allegations.

In addition to fines and jail time, identity theft arrests, convictions, and sentences have many collateral consequences. These consequences can impact many aspects of your livelihood, reputation, and socioeconomic position. 

Related Identity Theft Charges

Various offenses can accompany an identity theft charge in Colorado. Some related offenses include the following:

An experienced attorney can work with clients to identify all potential charges and develop sound strategies to combat the charges and mitigate the penalties. 

Have You Been Charged with Identity Theft in Colorado?

If you were recently arrested and charged with identity theft, it is important to have an experienced white-collar criminal defense lawyer by your side. At Mark S. Rubinstein, P.C., our identity theft lawyer has extensive experience defending the rights and freedom of individuals charged with these serious crimes. He understands the best identity theft defenses and how to use them to ensure your arrest has as little impact on your life as possible. Contact Mark S. Rubinstein, P.C., through our online contact form, to learn more. 

Mark Rubinstein

Attorney Mark S. Rubinstein has been practicing law for more than 30 years, including 25 years in Colorado. He founded Mark S. Rubinstein, P.C., in Carbondale after working for law firms in Denver and earlier in his career in San Diego. He focuses his practice in the areas of criminal defense and personal injury representation, and he is well known throughout western Colorado as an effective and unwavering advocate for his clients.