Identity theft is a crime that occurs when someone uses another person’s identifying information without consent, often for financial gain or another unlawful act. If you have been falsely accused of using or accessing someone’s personal information, you should contact a lawyer immediately. An experienced criminal defense attorney can argue that you had authority to access the information in question or that you did not use such information to commit an unlawful act. In this blog, we will discuss common examples of identity theft that may better help you understand your situation, as well as potential defense strategies against such a charge.
Examples of Identity Theft
People can be charged with identity theft for nonconsensual use of someone’s personal identification information (PII). You can also be charged with identity theft trafficking for selling or transferring PII with the understanding that the recipient will use the PII for an unlawful act.
Note that personal identity information can be someone’s:
- Date of birth
- Social Security number
- Driver’s license information
- Online logins and passwords
- Financial account numbers
- Passport number
- Tax identification number
Bank Accounts and Social Security Numbers
One of the most common forms of identity theft reported is bank account theft. This might be through a stolen check or ATM credit/debit card to access someone’s checking and savings accounts.
You might also be accused of identity theft for financial gain by using someone’s Social Security number without authorization. This is commonly seen in cases of tax identity theft, when someone files a tax return in another person’s name before they file their own.
Passports and Driver’s Licenses
Passports are another common item in a case of identity theft, as passports contain sensitive information that can be just as powerful as a driver’s license for the purposes of identification. Driver’s license number misuse is often seen in someone using another person’s ID number as identification on bad checks.
False Civil and Criminal Judgements
A different form of identity theft could involve criminal judgements, which might occur if you put down someone else’s name for a crime you might be charged with. This could be a case of mistaken identity, such as if you are a witness who misidentified a perpetrator.
Defend Against Identity Theft Charges
Identity theft charges in Tennessee are considered Class D felonies, carrying between 2 and 12 years of jail time and up to $5,000 in fines. The state may also choose to seek compensation from you for attorney fees and other legal costs, while a civil court may award the victim three times the actual damages and attorney's fees.
If you have been charged with identity theft, you have a few defense tactics on your side. As with most criminal cases, the prosecution has the burden of proving its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Some factors your defense attorney might argue to indicate that there is a reasonable doubt or that evidence should be suppressed include:
- You had authority to access the information in question
- The prosecution illegally searched your computer without obtaining a warrant
- The government can’t prove that you knew you had possession of personal identification information
- The government can’t show that you used the PII to commit an unlawful act
- The person whose information you took gave you consent to use that information
In some cases, people are not aware they are providing financial institutions or businesses personal information that they may use for specific situations. They may have signed an agreement that consented to your possession of the information and not even realized the details of that agreement, which your defense attorney can bring up in court.
Identity theft crimes may also be weighed based on the value of the information seized. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can argue that the value of the PII was minimal or not large enough to warrant the charges. Eldridge & Blakney can represent you if you have been wrongfully accused of identity theft. You can trust our firm to assess the facts of your situation and craft a strong defense for your case.
Contact the firm at Eldridge & Blakney to schedule a consultation today.