Identity theft has become an increasingly common crime in the digital age. Given the potential threat to Texans, the state vigorously prosecutes identity theft cases; a conviction can result in harsh penalties, including imprisonment and fines. You need a strong defense if you have been accused of identity theft. That’s where the Benjamin Law Firm comes in.
We have extensive experience handling white-collar crimes, including identity theft, and a proven history of achieving positive outcomes. Whether you are facing federal or state charges, you need the aggressive representation we provide. Contact our office today to consult with an experienced El Paso identity theft defense attorney.
About Identity Theft In Texas
Generally, identity theft is an economic crime that involves unlawfully using another party’s personal information to obtain goods or services. Common types of identity theft include:
- Fraudulently opening credit card accounts or obtaining loans using another person’s identifying information
- Using another person’s credit card or debit card information without permission to make purchases or obtain cash advances
- Accessing and taking over bank accounts or other accounts that allow access to cash or credit
Under Texas Penal Code § 32.51, identity theft refers to the “fraudulent use or possession of identifying information.” A person commits this offense if they, with the intent to harm or defraud, obtain, possess, transfer, or use:
- Another person’s identifying information without that person’s consent
- Information concerning a deceased person that would be identifying information without legal authorization if that person were alive
- Identifying information about a child younger than 18 years of age
Texas law defines “identifying information” as information that alone or in conjunction with other information identifies a person, such as:
- Name and date of birth
- Biometric data (e.g. fingerprints, voice prints, retina or iris images)
- Electronic identification number, address, routing code, or financial institution account number
- Social Security number (or another government-issued identification number)
- Telecommunication identifying information or access device (e.g. account number, personal identification number, electronic serial number)
Identity Theft Penalties in Texas
The classification of identity theft and the related penalties depend on the number of items allegedly obtained, possessed, transferred, or used:
- Less than 5 items – This is a state jail felony, punishable by up to 2 years in jail and/or a maximum fine of $10,000
- 5 or more but less than 10 items – This is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and/or a maximum fine of $10,000
- 10 or more but less than 50 items – This is a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or a maximum fine of $10,000
- 50 or more items – This is a first-degree felony punishable by up to 99 years to life in prison and/or a maximum fine of $10,000
In addition, the court can also order the defendant to make restitution to the victim for lost income or expenses (other than attorney fees) incurred due to the offense. The state may also prosecute defendants for separate crimes committed along with identity theft, such as mail fraud and wire fraud.
Federal Identity Theft Laws
The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act makes it a federal crime to knowingly transfer or use, without legal authority, another person’s means of identification, with the intent to commit, or to aid or abet, any activity that (1) violates federal law or (2) constitutes a felony under any applicable state or local law.
A conviction for general identity theft can result in a fine and a maximum prison sentence of 15 years. If the alleged offense was committed to facilitate a drug-trafficking crime, in connection with a crime of violence, or after a prior identity theft conviction, then a conviction may result in a fine and a prison sentence of up to 20 years.
In addition, the Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act sets out penalties for aggravated identity theft, which involves using the identity of another person to commit a felony offense. A conviction for aggravated identity theft carries the same maximum penalties and mandatory minimum sentences as general identity theft crimes.
Because federal prosecutors have access to vast financial and investigative resources, defendants are at a distinct disadvantage. It takes an experienced defense attorney to level the playing field and protect your rights.
Talk To An Experienced Texas Identity Theft Defense Attorney Today
Given the lasting repercussions of an identity theft conviction, having the powerful representation our firm provides is essential. Founding attorney Brock Benjamin is a former prosecutor who is comfortable in state and federal court. When you become our client, we will conduct an extensive investigation, choose the best line of defense, and work to protect your rights and freedom. Contact us today for a consultation.
The Benjamin Law Firm defends clients throughout Texas against state and federal identity theft charges.