Identity theft in North Carolina is a serious legal issue that state law strictly prohibits. If you’re arrested and convicted due to a fraud alert, you could spend years of your life behind bars. What’s more, you may also end up spending thousands of dollars in restitution to repair a victim’s credit history. That’s why you need aggressive criminal defense from The Wilkie Law Group on your side. We will protect your rights every step of the way while fighting for the best outcome possible. For a consultation, call 910-333-9626 today.
What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is a felony offense in North Carolina. More specifically, identity theft NC is a Class G felony, according to state laws. This type of crime occurs when someone uses another unsuspecting person’s identifying information to obtain credit, make purchases (often expensive ones), and commit crimes without leaving their own trace behind. A victim of identity theft can either be currently alive or a deceased person.
How Often Does Identity Theft Happen?
Fraud crimes are much more common than people might think. In 2020, American consumers reported more than 2.1 million instances of fraudulent use of identifying information, according to a press release from the Federal Trade Commission. These consumers reportedly lost more than $3.3 billion, which is an increase of $1.8 billion from 2019.
What is Trafficking in Stolen Identities?
Trafficking in stolen identities happens when a person buys, sells, or transfers someone else’s identifying information with full intent to commit identity theft. In North Carolina, trafficking in stolen identities is a Class E felony. You can also receive a Class E felony charge if you assist an identity thief in committing this crime.
Types of Identifying Information
According to North Carolina state laws, identifying information can include any of the following:
- Social security numbers
- Driver’s license numbers
- Passport numbers
- Debit or credit card number
- PIN numbers
- Digital signatures
- Email names or addresses
- Social media account names and numbers
- Electronic identification numbers
- Biometric data
- A parent’s maiden name
Examples of Identity Theft
As seen in the list above, an item of identity theft can be almost anything, particularly in light of the expanded use of technological devices to house data and transact our daily business as a society. Some of the more common examples of identity fraud include:
- Create fake loan applications for credit cards
- Withdraw money from bank accounts
- Purchase expensive items
- Obtain items that an identity thief can’t get with their own identifying information
- For example, if someone has been convicted of a felony, they no longer retain the right to purchase a firearm. By stealing another person’s identity, they may be able to purchase this weapon.
- Generally damage victims’ credit reports
- File taxes
- Receive medical services
- Obtain the victim’s legal documents
How to Prove Identity Theft
To receive an identity theft conviction in North Carolina, a prosecutor must prove every element of the charged crime(s). These include that the suspect acquired and utilized the victim’s identifying information (such as a social security number), intentionally used the stolen identity as their own identity, and intentionally used the stolen identity to buy certain items while avoiding legal consequences.
What are the Penalties for Identity Theft in North Carolina?
Identity thieves can potentially spend years behind bars, depending on the degree of their felony charge and the details of their case. Most identity theft cases in North Carolina result in a Class G felony. However, in some circumstances, an identity thief can receive a Class F felony charge, which is more serious than a Class G felony charge. If the behavior of the perpetrator led to the arrest of the victim, or if the perpetrator is caught with more than three stolen identities, then they may receive a Class F felony charge. A Class E felony charge is also possible, depending on the facts of the case.
Depending on whether you have a prior criminal record, the sentencing for this type of crime can be as follows:
- Class G Felony: 6 months to 2.5 years in prison
- Class F Felony: 10 months to 3.5 years in prison
- Class E Felony: 1 to 5 years in prison
However, the greater the criminal record, the more likely the sentence will increase.
Identity Theft Enforcement and Restitution Act
Identity theft became a federal offense in 1998 when Congress passed the Identity Theft Assumption Deterrence Act. But that law wasn’t broad enough, as identity thieves would only receive federal charges for foreign or interstate communications. Additionally, under this law, perpetrators would only receive a federal charge if the victim lost at least $5,000 due to the fraud.
So, in 2008, Congress passed the Identity Theft Enforcement and Restitution Act. This law seeks to appropriately punish those convicted of fraud while repaying victims who have suffered economic loss. The 2008 law differs from the 1998 law in the following ways:
- Different types of cases can undergo prosecution, not just ones that involve foreign or interstate communications
- Scope of interstate and foreign power for the conviction of computer fraud offenses increased
- Property used to commit computer fraud is subject to criminal and civil confiscation
- No requirement for victims to prove a $5,000 loss from the fraud
- Damaging more than 10 federal government computers within the span of one year is a felony offense
- Cyber-extortion is more accurately defined
Additionally, the convicted person may also have to pay restitution as part of their punishment under the new law. This means that they must pay whatever is necessary to restore financial loss and other costs that the victim suffered from identity loss. For example, the victim of identity theft may receive restitution for things like stolen money, damaged credit report, attorney fees, and even lost wages and difficulty obtaining employment.
What Should I Do if I’m Facing an Identity Theft Charge?
If you’re caught committing any crime, it’s important to stay calm, cool, and collected so that you don’t find yourself in even more legal trouble. More specifically, you need to cooperate with police, but remain silent, and consult with an attorney right away. This is especially important to remember if you are accused or charged with identity theft.
Whatever you do, do not resist law enforcement during your arrest. If you put up a fight, you will likely face other charges and you could even get hurt. Just cooperate and allow an experienced identity theft lawyer to put up a good fight for you in court.
During your arrest, police should at some point inform you of your Miranda Rights. The most important Miranda Right that you should utilize during and after arrest is staying silent. Don’t say anything about what you did or didn’t do until you speak with an experienced lawyer at The Wilkie Law Group. There is no prohibition against the authorities using any voluntary statements during your questioning or arrest – so do not make any statements at all.
Another important right that you are entitled to is the right to have an attorney present during your interrogation. The Jacksonville criminal defense attorneys at The Wilkie Law Group will meet with you, quickly study the facts of your case, and ensure that your rights are protected from that moment on.
We understand that not everyone can afford strong legal defense, so that’s why we offer everyone a consultation. Beyond that, we can work out reasonable attorney fees and an affordable payment plan for you.
How to Beat Identity Theft Charges
The best way to beat charges of any kind is by hiring an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer to represent you. If you’ve been arrested by law enforcement and charged with identity theft, an attorney at The Wilkie Law Group can use one of the following defenses to lessen your punishment or clear your name altogether:
- Complete Innocence – Sometimes, quick investigations can lead to the wrong suspect in custody. If you’re completely innocent and you have an alibi to prove your innocence, your attorney will use this to your advantage.
- Misunderstanding – Maybe the crime you allegedly committed boils down to a misunderstanding and nothing more. The misunderstanding could be on your end, or on the end of a business that wrongly accused you of fraud. Whatever happened, it’s important to be honest with your attorney so they can gather enough evidence to prove a simple misunderstanding at the time of the alleged crime.
- Lack of Intent – Intent is crucial in many crimes, and where appropriate, The Wilkie Law Group can focus on this defense to at least create reasonable doubt.
- Insufficient Evidence – As stated previously, a prosecutor must prove three elements of identity theft for a suspect to receive a conviction. If any of these elements are missing in the prosecutor’s case, we will make sure to focus on that as the main defense. If all goes well, then legally, the jury should dismiss your case entirely.
- Permission From the Victim – If the victim specifically gave you permission to use their identifying information, then you can’t be convicted of fraud. So, gather evidence and additional information that proves the victim’s consent to your actions and pass it along to your North Carolina criminal defense lawyer.
Contact an Experienced NC Attorney at The Wilkie Law Group Today
Aden Wilkie is passionate about protecting his clients and working towards the best possible outcome for them. At The Wilkie Law Group, our attorneys will provide aggressive criminal defense if you’re accused of identity theft or other theft crimes in North Carolina (or any other criminal charges, for that matter). Contact us today by completing our online intake form or by calling 910-333-9626 for an initial consultation.