An increasingly common crime in the digital age involves alleged offenders using the personal information of another party to obtain goods or services. Identity theft can include lines of credit or other items of value. This illegal impersonation is commonly referred to as identity theft. A person accused of identity theft can face serious state or federal charges.
Victims of these crimes often want restitution and prosecutors will also seek harsh additional penalties that include incarceration and fines. It is not uncommon though for the criminal charges to stem from misidentification of the alleged offenders or honest misunderstandings in which the people accused of wrongdoing were given permission to use the personal information in question.
Lawyer for Identity Theft Defense in San Antonio, Texas
Were you arrested or are you under investigation for alleged identity theft in Texas? You should refuse to make any statement to investigators without legal representation.
The experienced San Antonio criminal defense attorneys of Goldstein & Orr have been defending clients throughout Bexar County and surrounding areas since 1968. We will provide an honest and thorough evaluation of your case during a free initial consultation when you call (210) 226-1463 today.
Bexar County Identity Theft Information Center
- When can a person be charged with this crime under Texas law?
- What are the possible consequences of federal identity theft charges?
- What is New Account Fraud Under Texas Law?
- Where can I learn more about protecting myself from identity theft?
Texas Identity Theft Laws
Identity theft is referred to in Texas Penal Code § 32.51 as “fraudulent use or possession of identifying information.” Alleged offenders commit this crime if they, with the intent to harm or defraud another, obtain, possess, transfer, or use an item of:
- identifying information of another person without the other person’s consent;
- information concerning a deceased natural person, including a stillborn infant or fetus, that would be identifying information of that person were that person alive, if the item of information is obtained, possessed, transferred, or used without legal authorization; or
- identifying information of a child younger than 18 years of age.
Identifying information is defined as information that alone or in conjunction with other information identifies a person, including that person’s:
- name and date of birth;
- unique biometric data, including the person’s fingerprint, voice print, or retina or iris image;
- unique electronic identification number, address, routing code, or financial institution account number;
- telecommunication identifying information or access device (defined as “a card, plate, code, account number, personal identification number, electronic serial number, mobile identification number, or other telecommunications service, equipment, or instrument identifier or means of account access that alone or in conjunction with another telecommunication access device may be used to obtain money, goods, services, or other thing of value, or initiate a transfer of funds other than a transfer originated solely by paper instrument); and
- social security number or other government-issued identification number.
The classification of this crime depends on the number of items that were allegedly obtained, possessed, transferred, or used in the commission of the offense. An alleged offender could face the following penalties for identity theft in Texas:
- Less than five items is a state jail felony punishable by a maximum sentence of two years in jail and/or a maximum fine of $10,000;
- Five or more but less than 10 items is a third-degree felony punishable by a maximum sentence of five years in prison and/or a maximum fine of $10,000;
- 10 or more but less than 50 items is a second-degree felony punishable by a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and/or a maximum fine of $10,000; or
- 50 or more items is a first-degree felony punishable by a maximum sentence of 99 years to life in prison and/or a maximum fine of $10,000.
A court can also order an alleged offender to make restitution to the victim of the offense for lost income or other expenses, other than attorney’s fees, incurred as a result of the offense. Additionally, alleged offenders may also be prosecuted for separate offenses that were committed in connection with identity theft.
Federal Identity Theft Laws
When Congress passed the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act in 1998, it amended 18 U.S. Code § 1028 to make it a federal crime for an alleged offender to “knowingly transfer or use, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person with the intent to commit, or to aid or abet, any unlawful activity that constitutes a violation of Federal law, or that constitutes a felony under any applicable State or local law.”
Six years later, the passage of the Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act established penalties for the federal crime of aggravated identity theft under 18 U.S. Code § 1028A.
Alleged offenders can be charged with general identity theft under 18 U.S.C. § 1028 if they:
- knowingly and without lawful authority produces an identification document, authentication feature, or a false identification document;
- knowingly transfers an identification document, authentication feature, or a false identification document knowing that such document or feature was stolen or produced without lawful authority;
- knowingly possesses with intent to use unlawfully or transfer unlawfully five or more identification documents (other than those issued lawfully for the use of the possessor), authentication features, or false identification documents;
- knowingly possesses an identification document (other than one issued lawfully for the use of the possessor), authentication feature, or a false identification document, with the intent such document or feature be used to defraud the United States;
- knowingly produces, transfers, or possesses a document-making implement or authentication feature with the intent such document-making implement or authentication feature will be used in the production of a false identification document or another document-making implement or authentication feature which will be so used;
- knowingly possesses an identification document or authentication feature that is or appears to be an identification document or authentication feature of the United States or a sponsoring entity of an event designated as a special event of national significance which is stolen or produced without lawful authority knowing that such document or feature was stolen or produced without such authority;
- knowingly transfers, possesses, or uses, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person with the intent to commit, or to aid or abet, or in connection with, any unlawful activity that constitutes a violation of Federal law, or that constitutes a felony under any applicable State or local law; or
- knowingly traffics in false or actual authentication features for use in false identification documents, document-making implements, or means of identification.
A conviction for one of the offenses listed above can result in a fine and a prison sentence of up to 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 becomes final, then a conviction may result in a fine and a prison sentence of up to 20 years.
If an alleged offender’s violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1028 was committed to facilitate an act of domestic or an international terrorism, then a conviction could result in a fine and a prison sentence of up to 30 years. Similarly, aggravated identity theft under 18 U.S.C. § 1028A is defined as an alleged offender using the identity of another person to commit a felony offense.
Aggravated identity theft offenses carry the same maximum penalties as general identity theft crimes, but they also involve mandatory minimum sentences. If an alleged offender’s aggravated identity theft offense was committed in relation to an act of terrorism, a conviction can result in a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison. All other aggravated identity theft crimes can result in mandatory minimum sentences of two years in prison.
New Account Fraud in Texas
Opening a new account with another person’s identifying information to purchase goods and/or services is illegal in the State of Texas. The State doesn’t have any specific statute addressing new account fraud, but it’s charged as a form of identity theft known as false statements to obtain property and/or credit.
For example, a common way to commit new account fraud is to use information that is not yours to open a credit card account. If you then make purchases with that account, you could then be charged with new account fraud.
The offense is located under Section 32.32 of the Penal Code, which includes making false or misleading statements in order to obtain property or some type of credit. The penalties for this crime will depend on the amount of credit or property obtained while committing the crime. Listed below are the penalties for new account fraud.
- Less than $100 – Class C Misdemeanor
- More than $100, but less than $750 – Class B Misdemeanor
- More than $750, but less than $2,500 – Class A Misdemeanor
- More than $2,500, but less than $30,000 – State Jail Felony
- More than $30,000, but less than $150,000 – Third Degree Felony
- More than $150,000, but less than $300,000 – Second Degree Felony
- $300,000 or more – First-Degree Felony
Texas Identity Theft Resources
Identity Theft | Bexar County, TX — The Bexar County Criminal District Attorney’s Office prosecutes cases of identity theft committed within its jurisdiction. On this website, you can learn more about the warning signs of identity theft, what to do if you are a victim of identity theft, and how to protect your identity. You can also file a criminal complaint from this website with your respective law enforcement agency that may present the case to the District Attorney’s Office for prosecution if there is enough evidence and a suspect has been identified.
Bexar County Criminal District Attorney’s Office
101 West Nueva
San Antonio, TX 78205
Fighting Identity Theft | Texas Attorney General — As the chief legal and law enforcement officer in Texas, the attorney general considers consumer education to be “a vital part” of the office’s mission. You can learn more about how to protect yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft on this website. It also provides information relating to the six steps to take if you believe you are an identity theft victim.
Find a Defense Lawyer for Identity Theft in San Antonio, TX
If you believe that you are currently under investigation or you have been arrested for alleged identity theft, we suggest you immediately seek the help of experienced legal counsel. Goldstein & Orr defends clients accused of all kinds of white collar crimes in communities throughout Bexar County.
Our San Antonio criminal defense attorneys are licensed to represent alleged offenders in both federal courts and state courts throughout Texas. You can receive a complete review of your case by calling (210) 226-1463 or completing an online contact form to schedule a free, confidential consultation.