Colorado lawmakers squelch ID theft bill

| 4/22/2004

A Colorado House panel scuttled a proposal that would have toughened criminal penalties for identity theft. Three related measures remain under consideration.

The House Appropriations Committee killed a bill April 6 because the state doesn’t have enough money to send more criminals to prison, The Canyon Courier reported.

HB1122 would have added identity theft to state law. Colorado is one of two states without such a law. Authorities now use criminal impersonation, theft or forgery laws to prosecute criminals who steal identities.

Under the bill, identity theft would have been punishable as a Class-4 felony carrying a punishment of two to six years in prison. It also made it easier for victims to clear their credit histories.

The state estimated the measure’s price tag, however, at more than $10 million over the next five years.

Jefferson County, CO, investigator Chris Nelson told the newspaper the state’s budget problems had reduced its ability to pass meaningful criminal legislation.

“If you want a law banning people from sticking their heads out car windows and barking at poles, that’ll pass hands down,” Nelson said.

With identity theft cases on the rise in Colorado – ranking it eighth nationally – state lawmakers, however, continue to take a closer look at similar measures to protect residents, The Fort Collins Coloradoan reported.

HB1134, sponsored by Rep. Carl Miller, D-Leadville, would make the crime of identity theft a Class 6 felony, punishable by 12 to 18 months in prison.

It would create a process for victims to establish their innocence in crimes committed by the person who stole their identity. It would allow a court to order public information, such as records and criminal databases, be updated to reflect that data is inaccurate because the person's identity was stolen.

According to The Coloradoan, it could also be used to correct a person’s credit report – one of the most commonly affected and detrimental aspects of identity theft.

The bill has been forwarded to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

A second bill, which has been forwarded to the governor, would tighten the requirements for banks that offer credit or debit accounts by mail.

HB1274, sponsored by Rep. Rosemary Marshall, D-Denver, would require banks to verify the applicant is the person they offered the account to if an application contains an address different from the address to which they mailed an offer.

A House bill that seeks to keep Social Security numbers private has been sent back to the chamber to consider Senate changes.

HB1311, sponsored by Rep. Jerry Frangas, D-Denver, would prohibit a public entity from issuing a license, permit, pass or certificate that contains the holder’s Social Security number unless it is needed for legitimate reasons.

“I think we need to protect people’s privacy,” Frangas told The Coloradoan.

New legislation should help Colorado with its growing problem of identity theft, he said.

“I think we’ll go from one of the worst states in the country to one of the best.”