Westchester County Identity Theft Lawyer
With almost everyone using the internet to do everything from paying bills and shopping to applying for loans, it is easy for a person to pretend to be someone else if they have the right information. Any time someone uses another person’s information for their own monetary gain or to harm the person whose information they used, they may be guilty of identity theft.
Criminal charges for identity theft range in severity from misdemeanors to felonies depending on the value of the theft, any previous convictions, and the status of the alleged victim as a veteran. A Westchester County identity theft lawyer may be able to help regardless of the exact nature of the charges. A seasoned criminal attorney’s goal is to protect both your freedom and your reputation as they work to stand up for your rights and contest your charges in court.
What is Identity Theft?
The basic concept of identity theft is provided by New York Penal Law §190.78, which states that it is illegal to hold oneself out as another person by presenting personal identifying information with the intent to defraud a third party. This fraudulent act must be done for that fraudster’s own gain or to cause harm to the owner of that information.
Known specifically as identity theft in the third degree, a conviction here is a Class A misdemeanor that can result in up to one year in jail, the payment of fines, and a restitution order to pay back the other individual. However, this is only the basic version of identity theft.
If the value of the theft exceeds $500, the charge is upgraded to identity theft in the second degree. According to NYPL §190.79, this is a Class E felony. This section may also apply if the defendant has a prior larceny conviction or attempts to use the identifying information to commit a felony.
Finally, a charge of identity theft in the first degree or aggravated identity theft, both Class D felonies, could apply under NYPL §§190.80 and 190.80-a if the value of the theft exceeds $2,000, the other person is a veteran or currently serving member of the armed forces, or if the information is used to commit a felony classified as Class D or above. Regardless of the exact classification of the offense, a Westchester County identity theft attorney may be able to help contest associated charges.
Criminal Offenses are Related to Identify Theft
There are some secondary criminal offenses that are related to the crime of identity theft. One of the most common examples in recent years is the offense known as possession of a skimmer device. A skimmer device is something that can be inserted into a card reader at a gas station or ATM. When a person swipes their card, the skimmer device records the personal information stores on the card. It is a crime to possess a skimmer box with the intent to use it to steal another person’s identity.
Nuances in Identity Theft Laws
One key concept common to all the various identity theft charges in New York Penal Law is the idea of intent. A prosecutor must prove not only that the defendant possessed the identifying information of another person, but also that they used it with the intent to defraud a third party. Examples of this can be:
- The use of a stolen social security number to file taxes
- The use of a stolen birth certificate to obtain a passport
- The use of a stolen credit report to apply for a loan
All these actions imply an intent to defraud. However, an identity theft attorney in Westchester County may be able to argue that even if the defendant did possess the information, the did so with the intent to help the owner, not to hurt them.
Another key idea in these laws is what data constitutes personally identifying information. According to NYPL §190.77, personally identifying information can include something as simple as a person’s name, address, or telephone number.
However, it can also include something as intimate as someone’s signature, ATM PIN number, or computer password. In short, any information that could be used to pass oneself off as another person qualifies as identifying information under this definition.
How Could an Attorney Help in an Identity Theft Case?
There are many ways a defense attorney in Westchester County could assist in an identity theft prosecution. By thoroughly investigating the allegations, an attorney could develop a defense based on the available facts. This defense might allege a lack of evidence, a lack of intent, or a violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights.
Any attorney could also negotiate on the defendant’s behalf. Many identity theft cases end in a plea bargain, but the terms of that agreement depend largely on the lawyer’s ability to negotiate.
Talk to a Westchester County Identity Theft Attorney
New York courts take allegations of identity theft very seriously. Not only does identity theft affect the sellers of good or services, it also hurts the owners of that information. Any time a court accuses a defendant of using another’s personally identifying information for their own financial gain, that defendant needs to present a powerful defense if they want to achieve a positive outcome to their case.
A Westchester County identity theft lawyer could work with you to create just such a defense. After sitting down with you to identify your goals, they could evaluate the strength of the prosecutor’s case and help you work towards those goals in court. Call today to learn more.