Identity Theft Defense Attorneys in Hollywood Providing Clients With Strong Legal Representation
No two people in the world are exactly alike, and that means that there is a lot of value in each person’s unique identity. If someone uses another person’s information for financial gain, it can result in criminal charges. Find out what identity theft is, what it means if you’ve been charged with it, and other answers to common questions.
Just because identity theft isn’t a violent crime doesn’t mean that the criminal justice system doesn’t take it seriously. If you’ve been arrested and charged with identity theft, you need an attorney who has experience successfully defending clients in similar cases. Call Magilligan Law to find out more.
What Is Identity Theft?
Florida defines identity theft as “when an individual’s personal information (such as their name, Social Security number or credit card number) is used without their consent to commit fraud and other crimes.” This is often for the purpose of financial gain, such as opening up credit cards or bank accounts in that person’s name or applying for loans. In some cases, someone’s identity may be used to access healthcare under their benefits. Identity theft is a crime in Florida and the rest of the United States. While it’s often considered a white-collar crime because it’s nonviolent, it’s still a serious crime and is a third-degree felony in Florida.
How Is Identity Theft Investigated and Prosecuted?
Because identity theft often involves financial crimes or other types of fraud, the authorities put a lot of resources into the investigation and prosecution of these charges. It’s not uncommon for identity theft cases to involve multiple law enforcement agencies — even up to the federal level with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Those accused of identity theft may be under investigation for months or even years before they are aware or arrested, and these cases generally involve a lot of paperwork, including financial records and statements.
If you’re under investigation for identity theft or have been arrested, it’s important that you’re aware of your rights so that you don’t incriminate yourself. For example, officers need a search warrant to access your computers, phone, or other electronic devices, and you have a right to have an attorney present during any questioning.
What Are the Potential Penalties for Identity Theft?
If identity theft is charged at the normal level, this third-degree felony carries a potential prison sentence of up to 5 years and a $5,000 fine in the event of a conviction. But it’s also possible for identity theft to be a more serious felony charge, depending on the amount of money involved. If the person was able to obtain $5,000 or more, the charge is bumped up to a second-degree felony, which means the person can be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison. The fine also increases to $10,000. If the benefit was $50,000 or more, identity theft can be prosecuted as a first-degree felony. This charge can result in up to 30 years in prison.
These increased charges also have mandatory minimums. The mandatory minimum for a second-degree felony conviction of identity theft is 3 years. This increases to 5 years if the charge is a first-degree felony. If the person benefitted by at least $100,000 or used the identities of at least 30 people, the mandatory minimum sentence is 10 years in prison.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Identity Theft?
Many crimes have specific time limits for how long the prosecution has to be able to bring a case forward. For identity theft, the statute of limitations is 3 years in the state of Florida. If the prosecution doesn’t bring forward a case within 3 years of the crime, they aren’t able to press charges. However, there are some exceptions to this. Identity theft cases that rise to the federal level may have longer statutes of limitations. If there are concerns about the statute of limitations in your case, your attorney will discuss with you what this means and what your options may be.
What Are the Possible Defenses Against Identity Theft Charges?
Your defense attorney will discuss your defense options with you after hearing more about your case, but there are some common strategies that they may talk about. The first is that you are innocent. This may be an option if someone else used the personal information or you have been wrongly accused.
Another option is to argue that you had permission to use the personal information. While this may not help you avoid fraud charges if you used that information to falsify records or commit a crime, it’s not identity theft if the other party willingly gave you the information and allowed you to use it. An example of this might be if someone allowed you to use their credit card and then later said that you stole it.
The crime of identity theft includes that you had to have intended to commit a crime. This means that if you weren’t aware that you were using someone else’s information — something that can happen when people share the same name — or you didn’t intend to commit a crime, you may be able to use this as a defense strategy.
It doesn’t matter why you were charged with identity theft or what happened to get to this point; you are deserving of a strong defense. The criminal defense attorneys at Magilligan Law are here to help, and we offer a free 15-minute case evaluation so you can understand what we do and what we would suggest for your case. Call our office at 954-866-8058 to get started.