In the Colorado Case of PEOPLE v. RICHARDS the Colorado Supreme Court clarified the False Information to a Pawnbroker Law so that the average citizen could understand how it worked.
Colorado False Information to a Pawnbroker Defense Lawyer – H. Michael Steinberg
In the Richards case – the Defendant sold forty compact discs to a pawnbroker, falsely telling the pawnbroker that he had purchased them two and one-half years previously.
Here is the law:
12-56-104. Prohibited acts – penalties
(1) No pawnbroker shall enter into a contract for purchase or purchase transaction with any individual under the age of eighteen years.
(2) With respect to a contract for purchase, no pawnbroker may permit any customer to become obligated on the same day in any way under more than one contract for purchase agreement with the pawnbroker which would result in the pawnbroker obtaining a greater amount of money than would be permitted if the pawnbroker and customer had entered into only one contract for purchase covering the same tangible personal property.
(3) (a) No pawnbroker shall violate the terms of the contract for purchase.
(b) A pawnbroker who violates the terms of a contract for purchase involving a fixed price as set forth in section 12-56-101(2) commits a class 2 misdemeanor and shall be punished as provided in section 18-1.3-501, C.R.S.
(4) Except as otherwise provided in this section, any pawnbroker who violates any of the provisions of this article commits a class 1 misdemeanor and shall be punished as provided in section 18-1.3-501, C.R.S., and upon a second or subsequent conviction of a violation of this article within three years after the date of a prior conviction, a pawnbroker commits a class 6 felony and shall be punished as provided in section 18-1.3-401, C.R.S.
(5) Any customer who knowingly gives false information with respect to the information required by section 12-56-103(1) commits a class 6 felony and shall be punished as provided in section 18-1.3-401, C.R.S.
In the Richards case the Defendant argued that the prosecution failed to present sufficient proof with respect to each element set forth in the jury instruction defining the offense. .
The jury was instructed that the elements of giving false information to a pawnbroker included that the defendant:
- entered into a contract for purchase with a pawnbroker, and
- gave false information to the pawnbroker.
The jury was further instructed as follows:
FALSE INFORMATION TO A PAWNBROKER means:
…. false information concerning the pawn customer’s name, address, date of birth, ownership of the property, whether the property is totally owned by the customer, how long the customer has owned the property, whether the customer or someone else found the property, and if the property was found, the details of the finding. (emphasis added)
The defendant contended that he could not be found guilty of the offense at issue unless the prosecution proved he gave false information with respect to all of the information required by Section 12-56-103(1). He argued that the pawnbroker WAS GIVEN accurate information concerning his name, address, and date of birth. The Court rejected that posittion.
“Defendant would have us read Section 12-56-104(5) as applying only to persons who pawn goods and knowingly provide false information with respect to “each and every” item required by Section 12-56-103(1). We reject this interpretation for a number of reasons.”
First, a person pawning goods belonging to another could escape prosecution simply by providing one accurate item of information. Such an absurd result is contrary to appropriate considerations of legislative intent.
Second, the statute and the elemental instruction state that criminal liability attaches when a defendant “knowingly gives false information to the pawnbroker.” Neither specifies that all of the information must be false.
Third, the word “and” used in the penultimate clause of the definitional instruction and the statute is not used in the conjunctive sense, mandating that all information must be false. Rather, the clause as a whole is phrased in the conditional sense, requiring that the seller provide details in the event that the customer or another person found the property.
H. Michael’s Take
The Court’s read of the statute makes sense. Here’s the rub – when an item is pawned – you must be scrupulously honest about how you obtained the item – how long you owned it – and all of your identifying information – to fail to so so exposes you to a Colorado felony charge.