Westchester Identity Crimes Lawyers: Protecting Your Rights and Future
Identity theft and identity fraud are serious crimes that can have devastating consequences for victims. In Westchester County, New York, allegations of identity theft or fraud should be handled by an experienced criminal defense attorney. Identity crimes lawyers understand these charges, the applicable laws, and how to build the strongest defense to avoid convictions and preserve your future.
What is Identity Theft and Fraud in New York?
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information without your consent to commit fraud or other crimes. This can include your name, Social Security number, driver’s license number, bank account details, credit card numbers, or other identifying data.
Some examples of identity theft include:
- Opening new credit cards or loans in your name
- Making unauthorized purchases with your existing accounts
- Accessing your bank or financial accounts
- Getting medical treatment under your health insurance
- Giving your personal info to police during an arrest
Related to identity theft is identity fraud, which is knowingly possessing or using someone else’s identifying information without authority and with intent to defraud or commit crimes. This includes making fake IDs, driver’s licenses, passports, etc.
Both identity theft and fraud are felony crimes in New York under Penal Law Article 190. Charges can range from identity theft in the third degree (a class A misdemeanor) up to identity theft in the first degree (a class B felony) .
Common Defenses Against Identity Theft and Fraud Charges
Skilled criminal defense lawyers can often get identity crime charges reduced or dismissed by challenging the prosecution’s case. Some potential defenses include:
- You were unaware the information was stolen or fake – If you can show you did not know the personal identifying information you used belonged to someone else, this can defeat criminal intent requirements.
- You had consent or authorization – If the alleged victim gave you permission, directly or indirectly, to use their information, this may provide a complete defense.
- Misidentification – Mistaken identity is common in identity crimes. If you can cast doubt you are the perpetrator, the case against you will fail.
- Unlawful police conduct – If evidence against you was obtained through an illegal search or seizure, it may be excluded from the case.
An attorney can also negotiate with the prosecution for reduced charges or pretrial diversion programs to avoid a criminal record.
Penalties for Identity Theft and Fraud Convictions
Potential maximum penalties for identity theft and fraud convictions under New York law include:
- Identity theft in the first degree (Class B felony) – Up to 25 years in prison
- Identity theft in the second degree (Class C felony) – Up to 15 years in prison
- Identity theft in the third degree (Class D felony) – Up to 7 years in prison
- Identity theft in the fourth degree (Class E felony) – Up to 4 years in prison
- Identity theft in the fifth degree (Class A misdemeanor) – Up to 1 year in jail
In addition to incarceration, possible sentences can include heavy fines, probation, restitution to victims, and asset forfeiture. Convictions will also result in a permanent criminal record.
Finding the Right Westchester Criminal Defense Lawyer
Facing identity crime charges in Westchester County can be frightening. Your future is on the line. Key to mounting the strongest defense is having an assertive lawyer on your side. Look for an attorney with extensive experience defending identity theft and fraud cases. They will understand the complexities of these charges and how to attack the prosecution’s accusations at every angle.
A knowledgeable lawyer will also guide you through the criminal justice process, protect your rights, and try to minimize damage to your reputation and livelihood. Do not leave your fate to chance. Schedule a free case evaluation with a top-rated Westchester criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
Frequently Asked Questions About Identity Crimes
What should I do if I’m being investigated for identity theft or fraud?
Do not speak to police without your lawyer present. Invoke your right to remain silent and immediately contact an attorney experienced with identity crime cases. Early intervention can often prevent charges from being filed.
What will happen if I’m arrested for identity theft or fraud?
After arrest, you will be booked, fingerprinted, and held until arraignment. This first court appearance is to be advised of the formal charges and enter a plea. A defense lawyer can often get you released on bail/bond pending trial. Do not try to navigate arraignments alone.
Should I accept a plea bargain or go to trial?
An attorney can advise which option is best after reviewing the evidence and potential defenses. Pleas may be appropriate to limit penalties, but trials allow you to fight the allegations and seek acquittals. Your lawyer will provide guidance based on the unique circumstances of your case.
How can I restore my reputation if falsely accused?
Besides challenging the criminal charges, your lawyer can help draft letters to financial institutions, government agencies, and other entities impacted by the allegations to clear your name. They can also guide you in pursuing defamation claims if appropriate.
What should I do if I’m the victim of identity theft?
Immediately report it to the police and contact banks, creditors, insurers, etc. to place fraud alerts on your accounts. Get a copy of the police report and dispute any fraudulent transactions. Monitor your credit reports and financial statements vigilantly for signs of further misuse of your information.
The Bottom Line
Facing identity crime allegations can be extremely disruptive and scary. But with an experienced Westchester criminal defense lawyer guiding you, it is possible to minimize harm to your finances, reputation, and future. Do not delay in contacting a knowledgeable attorney for help.