With the easy accessibility of personal information through computers and smart phones, identity theft has rocketed into one of the nation’s fastest growing—and most highly publicized — crimes. As a result, identity theft is squarely on the radar of the Philadelphia District Attorney and police.
If you use someone else’s identity fraudulently, you can face harsh repercussions that include prison, fines and a criminal record. If you are arrested, you will need to retain a defense attorney who is experienced in identity theft as soon as you can.
What You Need To Know About Identity Theft
In Pennsylvania, a person commits identity theft if they use another person’s identifying information, such as social security numbers or bank account numbers, without their consent and for their own financial benefit.
The kinds of offenses that fall under identity fraud include:
- Hacking into someone else’s bank account with stolen passwords or account numbers and taking their money.
- Using a stolen credit card number to make purchases online.
- Applying for a credit card, mortgage or loan using someone else’s identifying information.
- Filing a fake tax return using another person’s identifying information, and then collecting the refund.
You can be charged separately for each individual identify theft violation, whether it’s from one victim or several.
Identity Theft Can Be A Felony Or Misdemeanor
The grading of an identity theft charge is largely based on the dollar amount taken.
- $2,000 or more, it is a felony of the third degree.
- Less than $2,000, it is a misdemeanor of the first degree.
Regardless of the dollar value involved, if it’s your third offense or more, it will be a felony of the second degree.
If the victim is 60 or older, or if they are a care-dependent person, the grading is one degree higher than specified.
What To Do If You Are Charged
If you are charged with identity theft, do not anger the arresting officer unnecessarily. At this stage, do not discuss what happened with the police or claim your innocence.
- As with most criminal charges, you should not talk to the police or prosecutors without your attorney by your side. What you say can be taken out of context and used against you.
- If the police question you, tell them you want a lawyer and politely refuse to answer their questions.
What Your Lawyer Can Do
Your attorney will carefully review every aspect of your case to determine if there is evidence for all you have been accused of.
- Your lawyer will make every effort to discredit any evidence not in your favor.
- Much of what your lawyer can do to help you will depend on the exact circumstances of your case.
- You may have acted without criminal intent. If so, your lawyer will gather the evidence or witnesses to prove it.
Your lawyer will be looking at every avenue that can help you, so it’s important that you give them all of the information that can support your case.
How A Lawyer Will Help
When you are up against an identity theft charge, even before your first hearing you will be facing a determined prosecutor. You need an attorney who will stand by you every step of the way, work hard to discredit any evidence – and work with you to determine your best course of action.
Pennsylvania Identity Theft Law
Identity theft is described and defined under The Pennsylvania Criminal Code under Title 18, Chapter 41. Read the code here.
Questions? Contact us today.
Based on the evidence, Fienman Defense will try to show that the charges should be dismissed. If it’s in your best interest, we will work to negotiate a lesser sentence. Should the case go to trial, we will fight to present the strongest defense possible for your situation.