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People v. Robinson.

2022 COA 124. No. 19CA1768. Insurance Fraud—Double Jeopardy—Multiplicity—Testimony.

October 27, 2022

Robinson bought a car but did not buy insurance coverage for it at that time. Two weeks later, Robinson’s boyfriend and her cousin were driving the uninsured car when they ran over a stop sign, damaging the car. Later that day, Robinson bought insurance coverage for the car. A few days later, she reported to police that her car had been stolen and that it had no prior damage. Robinson filed a claim for insurance coverage based on the alleged theft. During two recorded telephone calls with her insurance company and one recorded telephone call with a police detective, Robinson maintained that her car was stolen and she didn’t know who took it. She repeated those lies in the affidavit she submitted to her insurance company. Robinson was found guilty of four counts of insurance fraud and one count of false reporting to authorities. She was sentenced to concurrent terms of three years’ probation.

On appeal, Robinson argued that her four convictions for insurance fraud are multiplicitous and thus violate double jeopardy because they are based on a single insurance claim. Whether multiple punishments are permissible depends on whether a criminal statute permits a defendant’s conduct to be divided into discrete acts for purposes of prosecuting multiple offenses. Here, Robinson’s conviction for insurance fraud under CRS § 18-5-211(1)(b) was based on her presenting an insurance claim that contained false material information. The three convictions for making false statements under CRS § 18-5-211(1)(e) were based on her three statements containing false material information to support the insurance claim. Thus, the false statements under CRS § 18-5-211(1)(e) were part of her fraudulent insurance claim under CRS § 18-5-211(1)(b). Accordingly, Robinson’s four convictions for insurance fraud are multiplicitous and violate double jeopardy, and her three convictions under CRS § 18-5-211(1)(e) must merge into her one conviction under CRS § 18-5-211(1)(b).

Robinson also argued that the district court reversibly erred by allowing a detective to testify that he thought she lied during a telephone call with him. Here, there was no plain error because (1) the prosecutor’s question was proper; (2) the detective permissibly testified about his perception of Robinson’s credibility during an investigative interview; and (3) the detective’s brief statement did not so undermine the fundamental fairness of the trial as to cast serious doubt on the conviction’s reliability, because Robinson admitted to the detective that she had been lying earlier in the call. Therefore, the district court did not plainly err by allowing this testimony.

Robinson’s conviction under CRS § 18-5-211(1)(b) was affirmed. The convictions under CRS § 18-5-211(1)(e) were reversed and the case was remanded for the district court to vacate those convictions and sentences.

Official Colorado Court of Appeals proceedings can be found at the Colorado Court of Appeals website.

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