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Identity Theft

Under the law, Identity Theft is a serious offense that often leads to jail or prison time even for first time offenders. When most people think of Identity Theft, they think of an elaborate scheme to impersonate another person over a long period of time. However, under Washington statutes the crime is defined very broadly, and people are often surprised the ways in which prosecutor charge this offense. You are probably visiting my website because you or a loved one is charged with identity Theft, so let's talk a little bit about what the offense is, and how it is defended.

Identity Theft in the Second Degree

Identity Theft in the Second Degree is when a person knowingly obtains or uses a means of identification or financial information of a person with the intent to commit a crime. It is not necessary for the prosecuting attorney to specifically identify which criminal offense the defendant intends on committing. The definition of "financial information" includes account numbers and balances, passwords, social security numbers, and other information held for the purposes of account access or initiating a transaction. We often see this offense charged when a person steals a purse or wallet and it can be shown that the individual intends on using the credit cards inside. A person charged with one count of Identity Theft in the Second Degree faces a standard range of 0-90 days in jail. A separate count can be alleged for each person's identity that is possessed.

Identity Theft in the First Degree

A prosecutor can charge Identity Theft in the First Degree when it is alleged that the suspect obtained money or services in excess of $1,500. Under law, all of the individual transactions can be lumped together to meet this $1500 threshold. A person charged with one count of Identity Theft in the First Degree would face a standard range sentence of 3-9 months if convicted. A prosecutor is allowed to charge Identity Theft in addition to charges of general Theft and also Forgery.

The defense lawyers at our firm often see charges for Identity Theft when the credit cards or ID weren't actually used in a crime. In some instances the credit card or ID just happens to be stolen because it was in the brief case or purse. Additionally, Identity Theft cannot be charged when someone simply gives a false name or goes by an alias. This is true even if a prosecutor can show that there is a person out there with that name. Additionally, by law, it is not Identity Theft for a minor to use another's ID simply to buy alcohol.

If you or a loved one is charged with Identity Theft, please contact our office to learn more about how we may be able to help you. Our office does free consultations on criminal cases and we can usually be reached in about an hour.