Identity Theft

Identity theft in the context of criminal law is the use of someone’s else identity for illegal purposes, usually as a method to gain access to resources, credit, or other benefits in that person’s name.

Elements of the Offense

A person commits the criminal offense of identity theft in Washington, D.C. if that person:

(1) uses personal identifying information belonging to or pertaining to another person to obtain, or attempt to obtain, property fraudulently and without that person’s consent;

(2) obtains, creates, or possesses personal identifying information belonging to or pertaining to another with the intent to use the information to obtain property fraudulently or to give, sell, transmit, or transfer the information to a third party for the same purposes, both without the person’s consent; or

(3) uses personal identifying information belonging to or pertaining to another person to identify him- or herself at the time of arrest; to facilitate or conceal his/her commission of a crime; or to avoid detection, apprehension, or prosecution for a crime.  D.C. Criminal Code §22-3227.02

To act “fraudulently” means to act with the purpose to deceive or cheat.  It is ordinarily accomplished by a desire or purpose to bring about some gain or benefit to oneself or some other person or by a desire or purpose to cause some loss to some person.  The government need not prove that the defendant intended to defraud any particular person, so long as it proves that s/he intended to defraud somebody.

“Personal identifying information” includes name address, telephone number, date of birth, mother’s maiden name, driver’s license or driver’s license number; savings, checking, or other financial account number; social security number or tax identification number; passport or passport number; citizenship status, visa, or alien registration card; birth certificate or a facsimile of a birth certificate; credit or debt card or credit or debit card number; credit history or credit rating; signature; personal identification number, electronic identification number, password, access code or device, electronic address, electronic identification number, routing information or code, digital signature or telecommunication identification number; biometric data, such as fingerprint, voice print, retina or iris image or other unique physical representation; place of employment, employment history, or employee identification number; or any other numbers or information that can be used to access a person’s financial resources, access medical information, obtain identification, act as identification or obtain property.  D.C. Criminal Code §22-3227.01.

Penalties

Identity Theft in the First Degree:  A person who uses identity theft to obtain, or attempt to obtain, property or services valued at $1,000 or more commits identify theft in the first degree.  Identity theft in the first degree is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000, twice the value of the property obtained, or twice the value of the financial injury, whichever is greatest.  The person may also be imprisoned for up to 10 years.

Identity Theft in the Second Degree:  If a person uses identity theft to obtain, or attempt to obtain, property or services valued at less than $1,000, that person can be found guilty of identity theft in the second degree.  Second degree identity theft is punishable by a fine and by imprisonment of up to 180 days of imprisonment.

There is an enhanced penalty for committing identity theft against a person who is 65 years of age or older at the time of the offense.  In that case, the who is convicted of identify theft can be punished by a fine of up to 1.5 times the maximum fine otherwise authorized for the offense.  S/he may also be imprisoned for a term of up to 1.5 times the maximum term of imprisonment otherwise authorized.  It is an affirmative defense to this enhanced penalty that the accused (1) reasonably believed that the victim was not 65 years of age or older at the time of the offense or (2) could not have determined the age of the victim because of the manner in which the offense was committed.  D.C. Criminal Code §22-3227.03.

“Value” with respect to a credit card, check or other written instrument means the amount of money, credit, debt or other tangible or intangible property or services that has been or can be obtained through its use, or the amount promised of paid by the credit card, check or other written instrument.

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