Though identity theft has received recent attention in recent years, the truth is that North Carolina has criminalized the unlawful taking of another person’s identifying information for quite some time. Police and prosecutors are well-versed in conducting investigations, developing the case against you, and other enforcement strategies. As such, retaining skilled Charlotte identity theft lawyers is a priority if you were arrested for identity theft crimes.
State law may be tough on crime, but the Charlotte white-collar crime attorneys at Randall & Stump, PLLC are prepared to take on the legal challenges. We’re knowledgeable on the statutes covering your case, and we have the courtroom experience necessary to defend your interests. To schedule a free and confidential consultation of your case, contact us today at (980) 237-4579.
Overview of Identity Theft in Charlotte, NC
The North Carolina Identity Theft Protection Act makes it unlawful to obtain, possess, or use someone else’s identifying information with the intent to defraud. Despite this seemingly simple language, there are some important factors to note:
- It doesn’t matter if the victim is alive or dead, a child, or an adult.
- Though the term suggests theft, you don’t need to actually steal a person’s information to be charged. Any form of misappropriation or misconduct in accessing identity details, without the consent of the victim, could lead to an arrest for identity theft.
- Intent is an element of the offense, so you must purposefully hold yourself out as being the person whose identity details you’re using.
To be charged with identity theft, you must have assumed the victim’s identity for purposes of financial transactions, stealing credit card information, or gaining something of value. On the flip side, it’s also identity theft to use someone else’s identification details to avoid legal liability. An example might be tax identity theft, where you provide false identification so that you’re paying less in taxes.
Understanding Identifying Information
North Carolina’s identity theft laws contain a long list of items that constitute “identifying information.” Examples of this type of information include:
- Banking numbers, including those for checking and savings accounts
- Information on a driver’s license, state ID, or U.S. passport
- Credit and debit card numbers
- Personal identification number (PIN) codes
North Carolina authorities are particularly concerned with misappropriation of a person’s Social Security or taxpayer ID numbers. Social Security identity theft could enable someone to take out loans, apply for credit cards, open bank accounts, and incur dozens of other types of liabilities. It may also allow the individual to get away with tax evasion. Law enforcement and prosecutors aggressively pursue these cases, especially since they may fall under the umbrella of federal identity theft.
Many of the items on the list identifying information come as no surprise, but there are other details that you may not expect. For instance, it’s unlawful to take another person’s biometric details, such as fingerprints, facial recognition, iris or retina recognition, and other biological identity information. Plus, email addresses, ID numbers, online profiles, and the passwords and PINs used to access them could be the subject of identity theft charges.
Penalties for Identity Theft Charges
Identity theft is automatically classified as a class G felony, for which you could face a prison sentence of anywhere between eight and 31 months in prison. However, the stakes are higher if your actions result in an alleged victim being arrested, convicted, otherwise affected, or if you stole the identities of three or more people. Class F felony charges apply under these circumstances, so your prison sentence could be anywhere between 10 and 41 months.
In most identity theft cases, a court will also order restitution, which means that you’ll have to pay the victim back for any amounts you misappropriated through the use of identifying information.
Identity Theft Defenses
Even in the face of tough charges and harsh punishment, it’s important to remember that you are entitled to defend yourself against allegations of criminal conduct. With the help of an identity theft attorney, your initial strategy is to pick apart the evidence presented by the prosecutor. As with any criminal matter, the prosecution must prove that you’re guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
You’ll also have defense opportunities when it’s your turn to present evidence in your favor. Experienced identity fraud lawyers can develop a strategy around such defenses as:
- Lack of intent to use identifying information for fraudulent purposes
- Mistaken identity
- You are also the victim of identity theft and not the actual perpetrator