Identity Theft is the use of another person’s identifying information in connection with an underlying crime. Anyone who knowingly transfers, uses or possesses a “means of identification” of another without lawful permission is guilty of identity theft. “Mean’s of Identification” include any name or number that identifies a specific individual. “Means of identification” can be a name, social security number, date of birth, official state or government issued driver’s license or identification number, alien registration number, government passport number or tax identification number. The government must prove that the person using the “means of identification” knew that it belonged to another person. The “means of identification” must belong to a real person. In Federal Court, this crime adds a mandatory 2 year sentence that must be served consecutively (or in addition to) the underlying crime.
Identity theft can be committed very simply. If someone steals a credit card and uses it to pay for goods or services they have committed identity theft. The “means of identification” being the name and credit card number and it is used in the crime of credit card fraud (the underlying offense.)
Aggravated Identify Theft occurs when someone uses a stolen “means of identification” and creates an additional “means of identification. For instance, if someone uses a stolen credit card to obtain additional credit that is aggravated identify theft. If a person uses a stolen social security number to obtain a loan based on that person’s credit information that is aggravated identify theft. This form of identify theft is subject to even greater penalties.
If multiple identities are used the sentence is increased. If a person uses a position of trust to obtain the “means of identification” the sentenced is also increased.
Restitution, or the paying back of the money lost, is always required in these cases. Making restitution, or paying back the loss, at the earliest possible stage of the proceedings is an excellent way to reduce the sentence in these cases.
If you are charged with identity theft it is essential that you hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to assist you.