Identity theft is not just about stealing someone’s personal details. It’s about using those details without permission, often for financial gain or to impersonate another person. Whether through deceit, misleading statements, or outright fraud, the act has caught the attention of federal authorities, especially when large sums of money are involved or when it ties into other federal offenses.
At the federal level, 18 U.S.C. § 1028 criminalizes the misuse of personal identifiers, such as social security numbers, driver’s licenses, or credit card numbers. Intrusions into weakly secured networks or falling for online tricks often lead culprits to these precious data. They might then use these details to indulge in illegal online shopping, forge IDs, or even dish out dud checks. Committing such acts online, particularly if it spans multiple states, elevates the crime to a federal offense.
The Initiative against Identity Theft: A Federal Response
Recognizing the increasing prevalence of identity theft, the U.S Congress took action in 1998 by enacting the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act. This act revised 18 U.S.C. § 1028, rendering it unlawful to knowingly engage in identity theft activities. Offenses under this category are typically handled in the U.S District Courts.
Interestingly, combining identity theft with other felonious acts could lead to compounded charges, ensuring stricter penalties. The methods utilized in executing identity theft might also infringe other federal laws, encompassing credit card deception, mail fraud, computer trespassing, and more. Penalties for these offenses are stringent, often entailing heavy fines or asset confiscation. Investigations into such crimes often involve prominent agencies like the FBI and the Secret Service, with the Department of Justice’s Assistant U.S Attorneys leading the prosecution.
Aggravated Identity Theft: A Higher Offense
In 2004, Congress further strengthened the legal framework against identity thieves by introducing the Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act. This act delineates “aggravated identity theft,” wherein culprits exploit someone’s identity to commit felonies like appropriating social security benefits or breaching immigration rules. Such offenses, under 18 U.S.C § 1028A, carry mandatory jail terms, extending to five years if linked with terrorism.
What’s at Stake? Penalties for Federal Identity Theft
Federal identity theft convictions come with significant ramifications. Depending on the specifics:
- Producing or transferring counterfeit identification can lead to up to 15 years of incarceration.
- If associated with drug trafficking, violent offenses, or if it’s a recurring identity theft charge, the maximum imprisonment term shoots up to 20 years.
- Involvement with acts supporting or constituting terrorism can lead to a staggering 30 years behind bars.
These penalties can escalate if the accused is simultaneously charged with other crimes like drug trafficking or acts of terror.
Defending Against Federal Identity Theft Charges
If you’re facing identity theft charges, it’s imperative to engage with an experienced legal counsel. At the core of every identity theft charge lies intent. An accidental use of someone’s identity doesn’t qualify as identity theft since there’s no fraudulent intent involved. If such a lack of intention can be established, it can serve as a robust defense.
Furthermore, any breach of Constitutional rights during the investigation can result in the evidence being deemed inadmissible in court. For instance, evidence collected without appropriate legal permissions or interrogations conducted without informing the accused of their rights can be contested.
If you’re embroiled in such a situation, Chambers Law Firm offers top-tier legal assistance for federal offenses. Reach out to us at 714-760-4088 to discuss your case.