What to Know About Identity Theft
Identity theft is considered a serious crime by both Federal and State governments. If you’ve been charged with identity theft, you may be facing serious penalties including hefty fines or imprisonment. It is important to hire a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to craft your defense. Consider specifically seeking out an identity theft lawyer.
What is identity theft?
Identity theft occurs when a person’s personal information is stolen and used by the thief to commit fraud. This information may include Social Security numbers, insurance information, bank account information, credit card numbers, addresses and much more. The information stolen by the identity thief may be used to apply for credit, get medical services or file taxes.
In most instances, identity theft is committed for financial gain. However, there are instances when identity thieves commit identity theft to avoid criminal or legal actions against them or to access services that are meant for the person whose identity they have stolen.
The government does not go easy on cases of suspected identity theft. This is because of the increasing number of cases. There were 3.2 million incidents reported in 2019. 1.7 million of these cases were fraud-related.
Consequences of identity theft charges
Although different states have differentlaws concerning identity theft, it is considered a federal offense under the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act. This means that your case will be handled by a federal court. Federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Postal Inspection Service will also be involved in investigating and prosecuting your case.
The consequences of identity theft charges will depend on the severity of the damage resulting from the theft as well as the alleged intent. There are various consequences that people face if found guilty of identity theft.
A guilty verdict can result in thousands of dollars in fines for identity theft. The fine will depend on whether your charges are considered a felony or a misdemeanor.
A guilty verdict may result in imprisonment for up to 30 years. Aggravated identity theft attracts a mandatory sentence of not less than 2 years imprisonment. This sentence can be increased based on the severity of the crime.
Guilty parties may be required to compensate the victim of the crime for their financial losses. This may include lost wages due to time lost pursing the restoration of their identity, damages for emotional distress and legal fees.
First-time offenders whose crimes did not result in major harm may be put on probation and avoid jail time. They may still be required to pay fines and restitution. They may also have to adhere to other requirements provided by the court.
Defense against identity theft charges
If you’ve been charged with identity theft, it is important to hire a criminal defense lawyer to build your defense. Common defenses for identity theft charges include:
- False accusation
Your defense attorney may argue that you have been falsely accused of the crime. For example, if you received mail intended for your neighbor and opened it without realizing this, your neighbor may have falsely accused you of stealing their identity.
- Lack of fraudulent intent
If the prosecution cannot prove that you stole a person’s identity with the intent to commit fraud, they will not have a case against you. You may have obtained another person’s information but did not do so for an unlawful purpose.
Your defense attorney may argue that you had the victim’s permission to use their identity. If you had their consent, you cannot be charged with a crime. However, you will need to provide evidence that permission was granted.
- Improper search
In order to prove an identity theft charge, devices such computers or smartphones must be seized and searched for evidence by law enforcement agencies. In order for the charges to stand, law enforcement agencies must have a warrant provided by a judge to search your property. If the seizure and search were not carried out properly, your defense lawyer can argue that the search was improper and have your charges dropped.
Do you need an attorney?
If you or someone you love has been charged with identity theft, you will have the option to hire a private defense lawyer, a public defender or to represent yourself.
Hiring a private lawyer will ensure you have an experienced legal professional fighting to protect your rights. These attorneys will investigate your case and examine the evidence against you to build your case. They will advise you on the possible consequences of your charges and the best way to approach your case. They will negotiate on your behalf for a plea bargain to get your charges or sentence reduced. An experienced attorney will represent you in court and interview witnesses as well as cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses.
Hiring a private lawyer will help to improve the outcome of your case.
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