With the internet and computer usage as prevalent as they are, crimes involving the use of that technology are becoming more common. Acquiring the personal information or identifying information of another person and using it for your own benefit, without permission, is a crime. In Philadelphia, a person commits the offense of identity theft if he possesses or uses the identifying information of another person without the consent of that other person. Identifying information can be anything such as a social security number, insurance information, driver’s license, birthdate, or bank account number. In using that identifying information, the accused individual must have intended to further an unlawful purpose, such as theft. A Philadelphia identity theft lawyer can help you build a defense or answer your questions about the law.
To be convicted of identity theft in Philadelphia, the prosecutor must show that the accused individual was using the name, credit card number, social security number, or some other identifying information of another individual without permission to do so. Commonly, the accused portrays himself as that other individual, and therefore deceives the store, merchant, or business to acquire goods or services with no intent to pay for it himself.
Each time an accused individual possesses or uses the identifying information of another constitutes a separate offense under this statute. Simply put, the accused individual can be charged with identity theft for each time they used the false information, which allows the prosecution opportunities to seek individual punishments for each offense. However, the prosecution can also aggregate the offenses. This would reduce the number of offenses, but increase the total value of the theft by adding them together. Depending on the facts and circumstances of the case, the identity theft attorney in Philadelphia may be able negotiate with the prosecutor to have the case charged in a manner which would best benefit the accused.
The grading of an identity theft charge generally depends on the value of the property or services obtained as a result of the misrepresented identifying information. If the value involved is less than $2,000, then the offense is considered a misdemeanor of the first degree and punishable by a maximum of 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. If the total value involved is more than $2,000, or the offense is part of a criminal conspiracy, the offense will be considered a felony of the third degree and punishable by a maximum of 7 years in jail and a $15,000 fine. If the accused has two or more prior convictions for Identity Theft, the grading will be increased to a felony of the second degree punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. If the complainant is over 60 years of age, and therefore in a protected class, increased penalties could be imposed.
In addition to jail time, probation, and fines, the Court will likely order any individual convicted of identity theft to pay restitution to each affected victim. Other punishments could include community service or drug/alcohol treatment if it was the underlying cause of the criminal activity.
Each case is different, and there are numerous defenses to criminal allegations of theft and fraud. An experienced attorney can raise issues regarding the lack of proof, alibi, or misidentification of the accused. Further, it may be as simple as a mistake. If the accused had permission to use the information, he or she cannot be convicted of a crime. When represented by counsel, your Philadelphia identity theft lawyer can contact the prosecutor and discuss the case and potential defenses prior to trial in hopes of working out an agreeable resolution.
In identity theft cases, if the case goes to trial, the prosecutor will likely attempt to utilize surveillance video, testimony from the alleged victim and merchant, store receipts, bank records, or other voluminous business records to criminalize the alleged fraudulent transactions. It is important to have an experienced Philadelphia identity theft attorney to review the evidence and assist you in building a strong defense.
As with all convictions, an individual with a criminal record can encounter long term effects. To best avoid those consequences, an accused individual needs to be found not guilty or limit the sentence or charges as much as possible. If you or someone you know has been accused of identity theft, contact our criminal attorneys today to ensure that your rights are protected and you are fully informed about the legal process.