18 Pa. Con. Stat. § 4120 sets forth the criminal offense of identity theft. This offense has become more prevalent in recent years due to rapid increases in technology that have made it easier than ever for individuals to assume the identities of others. As a result, a Bucks County identity theft attorney may advise that the state has attempted to crack down on this fraud offense by instituting expansive definitions of identity theft and serious punishments for convictions.
Identity theft occurs whenever individuals use any means to take possession of or use the identifying information of others without their consent and for any unlawful purpose. A dedicated attorney may be able to ensure that the prosecution proves all elements of identity theft and build a strong defense to the charges that you are facing. Speak to a skilled criminal defense attorney to learn about how you could protect your rights.
Like most theft and fraud offenses, identity theft charges depend upon the value of the goods or services derived from using the identity of others. The offense covers the unauthorized usage of any identifying information, including, but not limited to, any document, photograph or computer image, or fact used to establish identity, including name, birth date, Social Security number, telephone number, banking account number, or any type of identification number.
Identity theft could be either a misdemeanor or a felony offense, depending on the circumstances. The grading of identity theft offenses are as follows:
A first-degree misdemeanor conviction could result in up to five years of imprisonment, and a third-degree felony conviction could result in up to seven years of imprisonment. A Bucks County identity theft attorney may be able to assist individuals who are facing either misdemeanor or felony identity theft charges.
There are some exceptions to the general grading scheme for identity theft. One exception is that if the identity theft is committed in furtherance of a criminal conspiracy, regardless of the value of the goods or services obtained through the identity theft, then the charge is a felony of the third degree. Another exception is that if the individuals have committed a third or subsequent identity theft offense, the charge becomes a second-degree felony, which could result in a ten-year prison sentence.
Additionally, if the targets of the identity theft are individuals aged 60 or older, a person who is dependent upon others for care, or a child under the age of 18, then the offense automatically increases to the next higher level of offense than normally would be charged under this section.
In some cases, at least for individuals with three or more subsequent convictions for identity theft, this could result in a first-degree felony charge, which carries a maximum prison sentence of ten years.
When facing fraud charges, individuals may initially feel as if they have no choice but to plead guilty and move with their lives. However, there are many defenses that may be applicable in an identity theft case, including a lack of criminal intent. An identity theft attorney in Bucks County may be able to assist individuals in raising any relevant defenses.
Legal counsel also may be able to weigh the sufficiency of the evidence and present all available options for resolving the case. Whether individuals opt to proceed to trial or enter into a plea agreement, a seasoned attorney may be able to greatly facilitate the process.
Any type of fraud charges, including identity theft, can be scary and unsettling. You may be concerned about the impact of a conviction on your family, your job, your future career opportunities, and your freedom. If you find yourself in this situation, a Bucks County identity theft lawyer may be able to help.
There are defenses that may be applicable to identity theft charges, which could help you negotiate or obtain a more positive outcome in your case. You should avoid taking chances on your future by enlisting the assistance of legal counsel today. Call to schedule a consultation.