The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Trujillo on Thursday, March 12, 2015.
Identity Theft—Unauthorized Use of Financial Transaction Device—Testimony—Character Evidence—Habit Evidence—Equal Protection.
Trujillo worked at an assisted-living facility. One weekend, she took $250 in cash and a debit card from a resident. Trujillo used the debit card to spend approximately $270 at several stores. She was convicted of identity theft and theft from an at-risk adult.
On appeal, Trujillo argued that the trial court abused its discretion when it admitted the resident’s testimony that she never gave her debit card to anyone, contending it was inadmissible character evidence. The resident described her regular response to the situation of needing people to buy things for her—her habit was to never give them her debit card. This testimony was habit evidence, not character evidence, and thus the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting it.
Trujillo also contended that her conviction for identity theft violated her right to equal protection of the laws because, as applied to her, the identity theft statute punishes the same conduct as the unauthorized use of a financial transaction device statute but carries a harsher penalty. Trujillo’s charged conduct was using the resident’s debit card, without her permission, to purchase food, clothing, and other items. A reasonable distinction can be drawn between the conduct punished by the two statutes because the felony identify theft statute describes a theft perpetrated against the account holder of a financial device, while the misdemeanor statute describes fraudulent conduct committed against the provider of cash, property, or services in a financial transaction. Therefore, Trujillo’s equal protection rights were not violated. The judgment was affirmed.