Being accused of identity theft isn’t a life-or-death issue, but it’s close. Conviction can yield serious prison time, fines, and an order for restitution of victims’ losses, court costs, and expenses for clearing credit histories – which can far exceed any fine the court may levy. After the conviction, the perpetrator remains a target for civil action by victims.
If you’ve been accused of identity theft, you need someone on your team who has a solid track record of defending clients from criminal charges. At The Law Office of Jason A. Volet, our dedicated New Jersey ID theft attorney has handled more than 2,000 criminal cases and is former prosecutor for Monmouth County.
Schedule a free and confidential case consultation with our team today, and learn how we will build a solid ID theft defense strategy for you. Call or fill out our online form to get started.
What Is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is a crime committed against about 9 million Americans every year, according to the Federal Trade Commission. It involves the use without permission of someone’s personal information, such as a credit card number or Social Security number, to commit fraud. That information can be used to open credit card and bank accounts and other lines of credit to fraudulently make purchases or obtain money or services.
You are in violation of identity theft laws in New Jersey (N.J.S.A. § 2C:21-17a) if you:
- Knowingly impersonate or falsely assume the identity of someone to enrich yourself or to injure or defraud someone.
- Pretend to represent a person or organization for your benefit or that of another person or to damage or defraud someone.
- Knowingly impersonate or falsely represent yourself as someone or make a false or misleading statement about the identity of any person in an oral or written application meant to obtain services.
- Obtain a person’s identifying information so you or another person can assume that identity or represent yourself or another person as the victim to obtain or try to attain some benefit or service and avoid payment of a debt or other legal obligation or avoid prosecution for a crime by using the victim’s identity.
- Impersonate someone by assuming a false identity or make a false or misleading statement in the course of submitting an oral or written application for services with the purpose of avoiding payment for prior services.
The state has varying burdens of proof for these scenarios, each of which is a disorderly persons offense punishable by up to six months of incarceration and victim restitution. A variety of circumstances can elevate the crime to a fourth-, third-, or second-degree violation carrying far more significant penalties.
What Are New Jersey Identity Theft Penalties?
The money or value of items or services obtained through identity theft, the number of victims, and the accused person’s criminal record will dictate the penalties faced for identity theft crimes:
- Identity theft is a fourth-degree crime if the amount is less than $500, the crime only involves one victim, and it is a first offense. A fourth-degree conviction can yield up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
- Identity theft is a third-degree crime if the amount is up to $500 but less than $75,000 or there are two to four victims. A third-degree conviction can yield three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
- Identity theft is a second-degree crime if the amount is $75,000 or more or there are five or more victims. A second-degree conviction can yield five to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000.
- Identity theft is a second-degree crime if false information is used to obtain a government document.
- Possessing another person’s identifying information without their approval is a fourth-degree crime and can be punishable as a second- or third-degree case if several identification elements or elements belonging to several people are involved.
- Trafficking in other people’s personal identifying information is a second- or third-degree crime, depending on the number of victims and the number of identifying items involved.
It’s worth noting that a minor who flashed someone else’s identification to buy alcohol or some other age-restricted product or service is not subject to these identity theft laws.
Credit Card Theft and Punishments
Any intangible or tangible device or card can qualify as a credit card if used to obtain anything of value, and credit card theft can range in severity from a misdemeanor to a felony. Here are some versions of credit card fraud, typically a fourth-degree crime punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000:
- Using false statements to get a credit or debit card
- Altering a card to increase the credit limit or adding a magnetic strip
- Using someone else’s card without their consent
- Using the Internet to steal credit card numbers and other personal information
- Using an electronic device to steal the information in a credit card’s magnetic strip, called skimming
- Copying credit card data from a sales receipt
- Hijacking an account, or illegally accessing an account and using a vendor to milk it for cash
Contact The Law Office of Jason A. Volet
Identity theft and credit card fraud are serious offenses that can yield severe prison time and crushing financial costs. Don’t take any chances with your defense. Discuss your case with the experienced ID theft defense attorney at The Law Office of Jason A. Volet today.
Contact our Freehold or Neptune office to schedule a free initial consultation with a skilled criminal defense attorney.