Connecticut statutes define identity theft as someone who knowingly uses information that personally identifies someone else to get or attempt to get items of financial value including credit, medical information, services, goods, money, and property. That identifying information may include something as simple as the other person’s phone number or address. Of course, the common items people think of in conjunction with identity theft include licenses, identification cards, Social Security cards, and credit cards. If you are accused of or arrested for identity theft, contact a criminal lawyer at Duffy Law as soon as possible.
Identity Theft and Federal Law
Identity theft has always been a problem; however, because more people are leaving a digital footprint, the theft of identifying information has hit an all-time high. The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) now looks into many identity theft complaints. Two federal laws address identity theft:
- The 1998 Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act makes knowingly using or transferring identifying information with the intent to commit a crime a felony. The Act also infers that if you have permission to use another person’s identifying information that it may not be a crime.
- The 2004 Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act makes aggravated identity theft a felony. Aggravated identity theft is when you use another person’s identity to commit another felony, steal social security benefits, violate immigration laws and conduct acts of domestic terrorism.
Why Authorities Take Identity Theft so Seriously
The number of people hurt by identity theft has forced prosecutors to be more aggressive in prosecuting these types of cases. Even though people are not physically hurt by it—the way they are by violent crime—prosecutors will often try to make examples of identity theft defendants.
According to a U.S. Department of Justice January 2019 report, about 26 million people over the age of 16 reported that they were the victims of identity theft in 2016. Of those, 5 percent reported being a victim of misuse of an existing credit card and 5 percent reported that they were victims of misuse of a bank account. Only 1 percent of the victims who filed an identity theft complaint in 2016 reported that someone had used their personal information to open a new account.
But, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III), opening new credit cards under another person’s name accounted for 40.5 percent of identity theft complaints in 2018. Miscellaneous identity theft accounted for 27.1 percent, tax fraud for 12 percent, opening a mobile phone account under another person’s name for 10.3 percent and using another person’s existing credit card without permission for 10 percent.
Identity Theft Crimes
Identity theft is being closely watched by consumers and law enforcement officials alike because it is easier to commit the different types of identity theft online and offline with the advent of the internet. More people have an online presence, which means there are more ways to extract personal information from someone other than going through their garbage or breaking in their homes. Examples of identity theft include:
- Forging checks;
- Stealing mail;
- Using credits cards that are not yours;
- Forging a person’s signature;
- Using someone’s identification;
- Giving a false name when law enforcement stops you for committing a crime;
- Cyber scams;
- Claiming rights that you do not have to a minor child for personal gain; and
- Using another person’s identity to get drugs and/or medical care.
Just because someone accused you of one of these types of identity theft doesn’t mean that you are guilty of it. Because these charges are very serious, you should retain an identity theft criminal attorney as soon as someone accuses you of this crime, even if you haven’t been arrested.
Defenses for Identity Theft Accusations
When someone accuses you of identity theft, you should contact a criminal lawyer as soon as possible. For you to be convicted, the charged crime has certain elements (facts) the government must prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. If one or more of the elements is missing or cannot be proven, you may be found not guilty. A criminal attorney reviews your case to determine if you have defenses. Some defenses to identity theft may include:
Lack of Unlawful Purpose
The prosecution must be able to show that you intended to use the stolen identity for fraud or some other criminal purpose, even if you obtained the identity unlawfully. For example, if you got the credit card information for someone else, but never used it, you cannot be held criminally liable.
A court cannot convict you of identity theft if the alleged victim allowed you to use his or her identity. As long as the person gives you permission, even implicitly, you are likely free from criminal liability. Implicit consent can mean that the person who gave you a credit card just nodded as you were explaining what you would do, but never actually said that you could do what you plan. However, implicit permission is often hard to prove.
Lack of Specific Intent
One of the elements of identity theft is specific intent. The prosecution must be able to prove that you willingly stole the person’s identity to commit fraud or for any other unlawful purpose. If the prosecution cannot show you took someone’s identification or credit card for this purpose, you cannot be held liable for identity theft. For example, you and another person share a similar name—your middle name is different. A business grants you access to an account. You use the funds without realizing that the money is not yours. You did not intend to “steal” the other person’s identity and cannot be held liable.
Call Duffy Law if You Need to Defend Against Identity Theft Charges in Connecticut
When someone accuses you of a crime, contact a criminal defense lawyer at Duffy Law at (203) 946-2000 before the court schedules your first hearing—your arraignment. If you plead guilty or nolo contendere but you are not guilty of a crime, it will follow you around for the rest of your life. Even a misdemeanor could mean problems finding employment, housing and some government benefits. You may lose some of your rights if you are convicted of a crime—especially if you are wrongly convicted.
The criminal lawyers at Duffy Law can review your case and work with you to find a strategy to lower bond, get reduced charges, or even a reduced sentence. If you did not commit a crime, including identity theft, our criminal attorneys can fight for your freedom.