Colo. Supreme, 10/25/2010

No. 09SC322. Montes-Rodriguez v. People.Criminal Impersonation Statute—False or Fictitious Identity or Capacity.

The Supreme Court reversed defendant’s conviction under the criminal impersonation statute, CRS § 18-5-113(1)(e), because defendant did not assume a “false or fictitious identity or capacity.” Montes-Rodriguez applied for a vehicle loan using a false social security number, but his correct name, address, date of birth, current and previous addresses, employment information, salary, and other identifying information.  The court states

The prosecution failed to prove the false-capacity element of the crime because it presented no evidence that the law requires loan applicants to have social security numbers. In other words, the prosecution failed to present evidence that a social security number gives one the legal qualification, fitness, or power to receive a loan. The prosecution also failed to prove the element of false identity. Montes­Rodriguez’s false social security number was one of many pieces of identifying information submitted on his loan application.

The Court held that one assumes a false identity by holding one’s self out to a third party as being another person, and that one assumes a false capacity when he or she assumes a false legal qualification, power, fitness, or role.  Because defendant did not hold himself out to be another person when he used another person’s social security number to obtain an automobile loan, and because his legal capacity to secure such a loan was not directly established through the false social security number, and the prosecution presented no evidence that a social security number was even a legal (as opposed to practical) requirement to obtain a loan, the Court reversed defendant’s conviction. The case was remanded to the court of appeals to return to the trial court to enter a judgment of acquittal.