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A New Jersey white collar defense attorney at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A. can represent you and advocate on your behalf if you are accused of an identity theft offense. Identity theft crimes are serious offenses, and defendants could face not just state prosecution but also federal charges. Understanding your rights and developing effective legal defense plans is essential.
Identity theft, or identity fraud, involves obtaining personal identifying information through unauthorized means. The identifying information is used to obtain a benefit or deprive another of a benefit.
Identifying information may be obtained in a number of ways, including mail or wire fraud, the use of credit card skimming devices that record card information, Internet phishing, or via telephone contact. Depending on how the identifying information was obtained from alleged victims, defendants may face charges not only for the crime of identity theft but also for computer crimes or mail fraud.
Any individual involved in an identity theft scheme may also be charged with all the crimes of his or her co-conspirators. If a defendant obtains and passes along identifying information to someone who uses the information to open a credit card, the person who obtained the information may be charged with the crimes of the person who obtained and used the card. Co-conspirator laws mean it is possible for you to face serious penalties even for minor involvement in identity theft scams.
Under New Jersey law, the amount of the benefit obtained is a key determining factor in establishing penalties for an identity theft crime. If benefits obtained through identity theft were worth less than $500 and a defendant had no prior offenses, the crime of identity theft is a fourth degree offense. Repeat offenders are charged with a third-degree offense, even if benefit amounts are below $500.
When benefits obtained are between $500 and $75,000, or when identifying information of two to five victims is obtained, the crime is a third-degree offense. When benefits in excess of $75,000 are involved, the offense is a second-degree crime.
Identity theft and related crimes are also illegal under federal law, so defendants could face charges not just brought by local district attorneys, but also by U.S. attorneys. On the federal level, a defendant who produces, uses or traffics in counterfeit access to devices could be charged under Section 1029 of the U.S. Code, which imposes a penalty of up to 10 years of imprisonment. An access device is defined to include codes, card plates, account numbers and a variety of other identifiers that can be used to obtain items of value.
Under the law, it is a second-degree crime if someone uses the personal identifying information of another in obtaining or attempting to obtain a driver’s license, birth certificate or other document issued by a governmental agency that could be used as a means of verifying a person’s identity, age or any other personal identifying information, and that person knowingly exhibits, displays or utters a document or other writing that falsely purports to be a driver’s license, birth certificate or other document issued by a governmental agency or which belongs or pertains to a person other than the person who possesses the document.
A common example of this is when someone is stopped and questioned by the police and that individual provides the officer with a false document. Such a crime is punishable by 5-10 years in prison. The exception to the rule would be a disorderly persons offense where a minor uses false identification to purchase liquor, tobacco or some other product to which he is not entitled because he is under age.
Defenses are available in identity theft cases, including arguing mistaken identity or claiming you had authorization to access or use identifying information. Defendants who are charged may also be able to negotiate immunity for testifying against co-conspirators in identity theft rings, or may be able to negotiate a favorable plea agreement.
A skilled white collar defense attorney assists in evaluating evidence, investigating accusations and determining how best to respond to charges. At Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A., our legal defense team will fight for you from the time you are charged until your identity theft case is resolved. Call us today to learn more.
Don’t let your rights be jeopardized.