Identity Theft

identityIn today’s age, when virtually everything is accessible through computers and cell phones, prosecution of identity thieves has become a top priority for law enforcement officials in California. Most police and prosecutor’s offices have special units and almost unlimited resources to investigate claims of identity theft – defined as unlawfully and intentionally acquiring personally identifying information of another person for an unlawful purpose.

Under Penal Code Section 530.5, there are four main types of identity theft: 1) obtaining and using another’s information without their consent for an unlawful purpose, 2) obtaining and using another’s information without their consent to commit fraud, 3) selling, transferring or conveying another’s personal information without their consent with the intent to commit fraud, and 4) selling, transferring or conveying another’s personal information without their consent knowing that the information will be used to commit fraud.

It’s important to note that simply possessing another person’s information may not fall under identity theft. In order to be convicted of identity theft in California, the prosecutor must prove the defendant used another person’s information in either an unlawful manner or with fraudulent intent.

False Accusations

As the frequency of identity theft increases, more and more people are being falsely accused of stealing other people’s identities. In 2004, President George Bush signed the Identity Theft Enhancement Act, which ensures that identity thieves face severe penalties if caught. Now, those accused of identity theft may face aggravated identity theft as well, a charge which can result in two extra years of prison and higher fines.

Fortunately, there are several defenses an individual can assert if they’ve been falsely accused of identity theft. If the defendant can prove that he or she had no unlawful purpose or fraudulent intent, their case may be thrown out of court. Additionally, federal law specifically exempts interactive computer services or software providers, unless they sell or transfer the information with the intent to commit fraud. If you work in either of these professions and are caught with another person’s information, you’re exempt from the crime – as long as you can prove there was no fraudulent intent.

Identity Theft Penalties

In the state of California, identity theft is a wobbler, meaning one can be charged with either a misdemeanor or felony depending on circumstances of the crime. Regardless, people convicted of identity theft will be held responsible for repaying the victims, and some may have to pay a large fine on top of the restitution. If convicted of a felony, an identity theft can face up to three years in prison and fines of up to $10,000. Those convicted of misdemeanors can face up to one year in jail, and a maximum fine of $1,000.

If you’ve been accused of identity theft in the state of California, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help save you time, cut back on stress, and may even keep you out of jail. Call The Kavinoky Law Firm today, and find out if we can help you resolve your identity theft concerns.