Identity Theft Charges: How a Cyber Crimes Lawyer Can Defend You
Identity theft is a serious crime that can wreak havoc on your finances and reputation. If you’ve been charged with identity theft, it’s critical to understand your rights and options. A knowledgeable cyber crimes defense lawyer can be your best ally in fighting the charges and avoiding severe penalties.
What Constitutes Identity Theft?
- Stealing personal information like Social Security numbers, bank account details, or medical records
- Using someone’s information to open credit cards or bank accounts, take out loans, or make purchases
- Accessing someone’s existing accounts without authorization
- Forging driver’s licenses, passports, or other ID documents
Simply possessing someone’s personal information without their consent can also lead to identity theft charges in some cases.
Common Defenses Against Identity Theft Charges
If you’ve been accused of identity theft, there may be defenses your lawyer can use to fight the charges:
- You didn’t knowingly use the information: Perhaps someone else used the victim’s information without your knowledge. Your lawyer can argue you never intended to commit identity theft.
- You had authorization: Maybe the victim gave you permission to use their information for a limited purpose like making a purchase on their behalf. Your attorney can show you acted in good faith.
- Mistaken identity: Perhaps you bear a close resemblance to the actual thief, or your information was stolen and used by someone else. Your lawyer may be able to show mistaken identity.
- Illegal search: If evidence against you was obtained through an unlawful search, your attorney can argue for that evidence to be excluded.
- Entrapment: If police coerced you into committing a crime you otherwise wouldn’t have, your lawyer may be able to claim entrapment.
Penalties for Identity Theft
Identity theft penalties vary based on the specific circumstances of your case. Under California law, identity theft can be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or felony:
- Misdemeanor identity theft is punishable by up to 1 year in county jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.
- Felony identity theft carries 16 months, 2 years or 3 years in state prison, and fines up to $10,000.
If the identity theft occurred in connection with another crime like fraud, the penalties may be even more severe.
Under federal law, penalties can include 5 years in prison, fines, and restitution payments to victims. For aggravated identity theft connected to other felonies, the prison sentence increases to a 2-year mandatory minimum.
Common Federal Identity Theft Charges
Some of the most common federal laws used to prosecute identity theft include:
- 18 U.S.C. 1028: Fraud in connection with identification documents like drivers’ licenses, passports, or Social Security cards. Punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
- 18 U.S.C. 1028A: Aggravated identity theft connected to other felonies. Carries a mandatory minimum 2-year prison sentence.
- 18 U.S.C. 1029: Identity theft related to access devices like credit cards, debit cards, or bank account numbers. Punishable by up to 10 or 15 years in prison depending on amount involved.
- 18 U.S.C. 1343: Wire fraud involving electronic transfer of money obtained through identity theft. Punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Hiring an Identity Theft Lawyer
Facing federal or state identity theft charges is frightening. But an experienced criminal defense lawyer can guide you through the complex legal process and build the strongest case for dismissal or minimized penalties.
When researching attorneys, don’t just look at their credentials and experience. Make sure you choose a lawyer you feel comfortable with and who is responsive to your questions and concerns. Defending against identity theft requires skill as well as commitment.
Don’t go through this alone. With an experienced identity theft lawyer on your side, you can overcome the charges and move on with your life. There are defenses available and options to reduce penalties—but you need the right legal advocate to fight for your rights.