Virginia Federal Identity Theft Attorney
In our increasingly digitized world, more people are illegally using the personal information of others to commit crimes such as identity theft, credit card theft, and similar offenses involving misrepresentation. In broad terms, identity theft is a crime that occurs when someone uses a victim’s personal information to pose as another individual in order to obtain goods, services, or anything else of value.
Whether it is committed in Fairfax, Virginia or our nation’s capital, many identity theft cases can be charged as a federal offense and therefore are subject to federal sentencing guidelines and restitution requirements. If you are facing identity theft charges, contact a Virginia federal identity theft lawyer today at (703) 278-2800 for a free initial consultation.
Effects of Identity Theft
According to the Federal Trade Commission, around 14 million Americans – or one out of every 20 consumers – have their identities stolen each year. The amount of money lost to identity thieves is estimated in the billions of dollars. Identity theft impacts people of all socio-economic types, and can even extend beyond the grave as some thieves steal the identities of the deceased.
As you might assume, penalties for identity theft are severe, especially for those accused of multiple or repeat offenses. Such crimes can be pursued by Commonwealth authorities in Virginia or – if the crime is pernicious, the result of a conspiracy, or occurs in multiple states –federal court.
For obvious reasons, if you have been accused – or are being investigated for – the serious crime of identity theft of any sort, it is vital that you contact a seasoned Virginia federal identity theft lawyer who can mount an aggressive defense.
Identity Theft and Intent
Few people may realize that one can commit identity theft even if they have not benefited financially from their efforts. Identity theft occurs when you obtain, possess, or use someone else’s information with the intent to later fraudulently use that information to your benefit.
For example, a waiter in a restaurant or an employee at a retail store who has a customer’s credit card, which was proffered to pay the customer’s bill, can be charged with identity theft if the employee or server copies the customer’s credit card numbers with the intent that the employee or waiter might later use it to purchase something.
Making an actual purchase with the copied numbers is not required for law enforcement to levy a charge. Merely possessing the customer’s financial information is enough to result in an arrest, and possibly a charge.
The first element in committing identity theft requires that the defendant, “acted without authorization or permission from the victim.” In a legal sense, this can happen in several ways – separately or in combination – where the perpetrator allegedly:
- Obtains, records, or accesses another individual’s unique (identifying) information that is not available to the general public and uses this information to access financial records, identification documents, or obtain benefits normally associated with the victim’s unique information.
- Secures money, credit, loans, goods or services by using identifying information that is unique to this other person/victim;
- Acquires government-issued identification documents (driver’s license, Social Security documents, security clearances, etc.) in the name of another person
- Impersonates a law enforcement officer or government official in order to obtain, record, or access identifying information of another person.
The second element requires that the perpetrator acted with the intent to defraud at the time he or she acquired the identifying information, money, credit, loans, goods or services, or identification documents.
Penalties for Identity Theft
The Commonwealth of Virginia and Federal authorities have a different set of penalties for those convicted of identity theft. Federal and state identity theft convictions can lead to one or more of the following penalties:
- Incarceration – Conviction for a first offense of federal identity theft can result in up to two years in federal prison per count. However, if one commits aggravated identity theft – defined as committing such a theft in pursuance of another federal felony (e.g. immigration violations, false citizenship crimes, firearms offenses, Social Security fraud) two years can be added to each sentence.
- Fines – It is common for federal courts to order those convicted of identity theft to pay a fine. Misdemeanor fines can sometimes reach $1,000 per count, while felony fines can easily exceed $5,000 per conviction. In Virginia, in addition to incarceration, a fine of up to $2,500 is possible for a first-time conviction.
- Restitution – If the identity theft results in a victim suffering financial harm, federal and state courts typically order restitution to compensate the victim for his or her loss. Losses can include time spent restoring a damaged credit rating and any associated fees. Restitution amounts depend on the circumstances – and damages incurred – by each victim.
- Probation – First-time offenders in identity theft crimes, if the degree of harm to the victim is not severe, may be eligible for probation, or may qualify for parole after serving a portion of their sentence. But whether it is probation or parole, the person convicted must agree to certain conditions that can include, but are not necessarily limited to, court-ordered monitoring by a probation or parole officer, faithfully paying all restitution fees and fines, maintaining gainful employment, and refraining from committing any crimes during the period of their probation or parole.
How a Virginia Federal Identity Theft Lawyer Can Help
If you are being investigated for, or have been accused of identity theft, speaking to an experienced Virginia federal criminal lawyer who has dealt with state and federal prosecutors is a top priority. Our attorneys understand how the law applies in both state and federal investigations, and can provide you with legal guidance regarding the best defense strategy to mitigate, reduce, or, if possible, eliminate your charges. Contact the firm for an initial, no-cost case consultation today.