A federal identify theft charge can lead to severe consequences, including up to 30 years in federal prison and steep fines. With the rise identity theft nationally, federal prosecutors have started to aggressively pursue these cases—with the support and resources of the federal government on their side. If you have been charged, you need legal help to protect your rights and defend you in court. You need to talk to a Los Angeles identity theft lawyer.
At the Simmrin Law Group, we have lawyers who have devoted their careers to helping people defend themselves against federal charges. We know the kind of evidence we need to assemble to create a strong defense. In many cases, we are able to help our clients avoid prison sentences and other penalties. We offer a free, no obligation consultation to discuss your case and explain our approach. Fill out the form to the right or call us at 310-997-4688 and get your free consultation today.
What counts as identity theft?
Legally, there are a lot of different activities that can count as identity theft—even if you wouldn’t normally think of them that way.
Both California and the U.S. federal system have laws that make identity theft illegal. Activities prohibited by state law include stealing credit card information, using someone else’s email account to impersonate them, and using someone else’s name and social security number to collect welfare or Social Security payments. Forging a signature is another form of identity theft under California law.
Federal identity theft law is found in the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998. It relates to a more specific kind of identity theft, targeting people who make or use stolen identification documents. Under the federal law, it is illegal to:
- Knowingly transfer a stolen ID card or document to someone else, regardless of whether you sell or give it to the person.
- Knowingly presenting another person’s ID card
- Knowingly transferring, producing, possessing or trafficking in equipment used to make fake ID documents.
What does the prosecution have to prove in a federal identity theft case?
The federal identity theft law makes it illegal to “knowingly” take certain actions relating to identification documents. This means that to be convicted, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you knew that you were doing something fraudulent or illegal. For example, if you are accused of knowingly transferring a stolen ID card or document, you must have known that the document was stolen. If you had ID producing equipment, you must have known that you had it and that its purpose was to produce false identification documents.
In addition to this, the feds will need to prove that you had the document in your possession and either transferred or presented it—for example, showing it at a Social Security office to get benefits. If you are accused of identity theft in connection with ID producing equipment, the prosecution will need to prove you possessed, produced, transferred or trafficked in it.
Finally, identity theft is often prosecuted along with other charges such as mail fraud or wire fraud. These are separate charges that each have their own elements of proof. The prosecution must meet its burden of proof for each individual charge before you can be convicted of it.
What if I didn’t defraud anyone or make any money?
Under the federal identity theft law, your actions are what matter—not the results. You can be convicted even if you never made any money as a result of having the identification.
What are the defenses against a federal identity theft charge?
There are several defenses that your lawyer might use to undermine the prosecution’s case or show that you are not guilty. Some typical ones include:
- Lack of intent. If you did not mean to defraud anyone or commit a crime, you should not be found guilty. For example, if a friend asked you to deliver an envelope containing several stolen IDs to someone else, and you believed the envelope contained family photos, you do not have criminal intent. Intent can be difficult for the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt because there may be no evidence of what you were thinking.
- Consent. You may believe that the owner of the ID agreed that you could have it or use it. This might be the case if, for example, you were helping someone apply for government benefits. If you have consent, you haven’t committed a crime.
- Your rights were violated. identity theft evidence is often collected through police searches, and the evidence can be inadmissible in court if police did not follow proper search and seizure proceedings. If the prosecution cannot use important evidence, it may be forced to dismiss your case.
What are the penalties for federal identity theft?
The penalties for a federal identity theft conviction can include:
- Up to 30 years in prison
- Fines of $5,000 or more depending on the case
In addition, the 2004 Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act imposes even harsher penalties in some cases. If you use someone else’s identity to commit immigration violations, steal someone’s Social Security benefits, or commit acts of domestic terrorism, you can be found guilty of aggravated identity theft. In these cases, the court is required to sentence you to an additional 2 years for regular identity theft and an additional five years for domestic terrorism identity theft.
Talk to a Los Angeles Identity Theft Lawyer for Free
At the Simmrin Law Group, we give you the strongest legal representation possible against federal crimes. We know the federal prosecutors will work hard to convict you, and we are prepared to fight back. Let us give you a FREE consultation to explain your rights and show you how we can help. Fill out the form to the right or call us at 310-997-4688 and get your free consultation today.