Identity Theft is a Federal Priority
As a federal offense, alleged identity theft criminals can be facing extensive jail or prison terms as well as massive fines upon conviction. Therefore, it is important to speak with a federal identity theft lawyer as soon as you find out that you’re being investigated for, or charged with, identity theft.
Identity theft is nothing new. That said, with the rising prevalence of the internet and the sheer volume of personal information stored and exchanged there, identity theft has ballooned substantially with new and ever more sophisticated schemes. Each year, almost 15 million Americans have their identities taken, amounting to financial losses of roughly $50 billion annually. To mitigate the effects of identity theft, the FBI and other federal agencies prioritize investigating and catching offenders. They employ widespread information-sharing partnerships with local and state law enforcement and individuals from the corporate, government, and education sectors.
Identity Theft: Federal Definitions and Applicable Legislation
Essentially, identity theft takes place when another person steals an identity for the purpose of committing fraud or another offense. The U.S. Congress enacted the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act and amended Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 1028, both of which are purposed to make it a federal offense to “knowingly transfer or use, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person with the intent to commit, or to aid or abet, any unlawful activity that constitutes a violation of federal law, or that constitutes a felony under any applicable state or local law.”
The Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act in 2004 further bolstered federal laws and set up penalties for “aggravated identity theft,” which is the term for stealing another’s identity in order to commit felony crimes. Further, some other crimes that an alleged offender might be facing can include:
Potential Repercussions of a Guilty Conviction
If you are convicted of a federal identity theft crime, such as aggravated identity theft, the penalties can be rather intense. You could be looking at many years in a federal prison. For example, according to the legislation, identity theft can put a convict in in prison for up to 15 years. On the other hand, if that identity theft crime was committed in the process of the commission of a drug trafficking or a violent crime, then maximum punishment can be 20 years.
The specific circumstances surrounding the theft will dictate the extent of the penalties. Due to the Aggravated Identity Theft law, pursuant to Title 18, United States Code, Section 1028A, if you get charged with any of the above federal offenses, the federal government can layer on an aggravated identity theft charge, which brings the potential of an additional two years to your sentence.
Identity theft charges normally follow a long and comprehensive investigation, and it is common for defendants to be aware that they’re under investigation before the arrest. At this stage of the case, it is essential to get your criminal defense lawyer involved. In the pre-file period, your attorney can have a dramatic effect on the case. Even ahead of the moment when law enforcement files the charges, your lawyer can stand in as your spokesperson and, under the right circumstances, he or she can help resolve the investigation before police even file charges.
How Can I Fight Identity Theft Charges
To demonstrate that a defendant is guilty of identity theft, the federal prosecutors carry the burden of proving a number of elements, including:
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