Philadelphia Identity Theft Lawyer
Identity theft can undoubtedly be described as one of the world’s fastest growing crimes, affecting millions of Americans each year. So it should come as no surprise that judges, juries and prosecutors have not an ounce of sympathy for individuals convicted of this crime. Philadelphia prosecutors have become extremely more aggressive in their efforts to charge individuals with identity theft crimes due to an increase in technological advancements to boost conviction rates. Without question, identity theft is a serious problem in our country. So too, though, is receiving an unfair trial filled with an overly aggressive prosecution.
Identity Theft is a serious crime, and in all cases must be met with equally serious defense. However, just how grave this offense is depends on multiple factors. The disparity between the grading of each type of identity theft is significant – you may be charged with anywhere between a misdemeanor and a Felony of the Second Degree.
In Pennsylvania, Identity Theft is usually a Felony of the Third Degree, punishable by up to 7 years in jail and a significant fine. In some cases, however, the grading of Identity Theft can increase to a Felony of the Second Degree, punishable by up to 10 years in jail. Finally, in a few rare cases, Identity Theft can be graded as a Misdemeanor of the First Degree, punishable by up to 5 years in jail. It is important to consult an attorney as soon as you learn you have been charged with identity theft.
What Is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is the use or possession, through any means, of a person’s personal identifying information, without their permission, for any purpose.
Personal identifying information can include social security numbers, birth dates, addresses, even your mother’s maiden name. In other words, anything that uniquely identifies you can be considered personal identifying information. Merely having a person’s identifying information in your possession could subject you to being liable for a crime.
Identity Theft is graded as follows:
- A misdemeanor of the first degree when the total value involved is less than $2,000.
- A felony of the third degree when the total value involved is $2,000 or more;
- A felony of the third degree if it is in furtherance of a criminal conspiracy regardless of the amount; and
- A felony of the second degree if it is your third or subsequent offense.
Enhancements for Identity Theft
The Identity Theft statute in Pennsylvania is unique, in that it provides for certain enhancements if you fall under a set of classifications or use the information in a particular way.
One type of possible enhancement to this crime is the fact that a person can be charged for each separate time that person uses or possesses another person’s identifying information. This means that each time a person runs a fraudulent credit card transaction, that person can be charged with a separate count of identity theft. In a worst case scenario, if a perpetrator uses a person’s identity 10 times on transactions that are less than $2,000, they can be charged with 10 counts of misdemeanor identity theft, which means they are now facing a maximum penalty of up to 50 years instead of just 5 years. As you can see, this form of enhancement can add up to immense penalties very rapidly.
The greatest enhancement, however, comes into play when one uses or possess the identifying information of anyone who is 60 years old or older. Anyone who has this type of identifying information will receive an enhancement up one grading. This means that if you merely possess the information of a 60 year old person, and the value involved is under $2,000 (normally a misdemeanor of the third degree), your crime is now graded as a felony of the third degree. In the worst case scenario, a person charged with their third offense, normally a felony of the second degree, carrying up to 10 years, can be charged with a felony of the first degree, carrying up to 20 years in jail.
Why Do I Need an Attorney?
The identity theft statute is complicated, and includes several enhancements. Considering both the complex nature of the law and the seriousness of the penalties, retaining counsel is a must. You definitely should not go at it alone.
The attorneys at The Law Offices of Greg Prosmushkin, P.C. can help you formulate defenses and figure out what course of action will be best for you. Our attorneys have decades of experience in handling these types of cases, as well as specialized knowledge on crimes involving identity theft. Call us today for a free consultation.
This content was written on behalf of Greg Prosmushkin.