Sacramento Criminal Defense Attorney

Sacramento Criminal Defense Attorney Explains Charges For Identity Theft

What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft is defined by the unlawful taking of another person’s personal identifying information for an illegal or unlawful reason. It’s important to understand the basics of identity theft and if you’re charged, speak to a Sacramento criminal defense attorney for legal representation. There are four specific types of identity theft that are outlined by California law:

  • Intentionally taking another person’s identifying information and using it for any unlawful purpose without that person’s consent. Examples of unlawful purpose include: money, goods,
  • credit, services, property, or medical information.
  • Obtaining another person’s identifying information with the intent to commit fraud
  • Selling, transferring, or otherwise providing the personal identifying information of another person without their consent with the intention to commit fraud
  • Selling, transferring, or otherwise providing the personal identifying information of another person without their consent with the actual knowledge that the information will be used to commit fraud

It is not required that any particular effort was made to obtain the victim’s information – just the fact that the defendant accepted this information with the intent to use it later is sufficient to be considered an act of identity theft.

What is Personal Identifying Information?

Personal identifying information includes:

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Addresses
  • Telephone numbers
  • Tax ID
  • Social security number
  • Driver’s license numbers
  • Passport information
  • School ID number
  • Employee ID number
  • Bank account or credit card account information
  • Information contained in birth and death certificates

Because there are so many elements of what is considered identity theft, it’s crucial to speak to a Sacramento criminal defense attorney to learn what you can do about the charges you are facing.

What is Fraud?

California criminal fraud laws defines fraud as a deliberate act that is intended to secure an unfair or unlawful gain or to cause another person to suffer a loss. Regarding identity theft, fraud typically includes financial gain to the defendant and financial loss to the victim. Two common examples of identity theft fraud include:

  • Using another person’s information to collect their insurance benefits
  • Using another person’s credit card to make personal purchases without their permission or knowledge

It is important to recall that fraud is not required for a charge of identity theft – all that is required is that unlawful acts were committed with the stolen information. Contact a Sacramento criminal defense attorney immediately.


In the state of California, identity theft is considered a wobbler, meaning it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. The prosecutor has the prerogative to decide if it should be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony and usually bases this decision on the following:

  • The specific circumstances of the case
  • The defendant’s criminal history

If the defendant is convicted of misdemeanor identity theft, this can result in the following:

  • Up to one year in county jail
  • A fine of up to $1,000

If the defendant is convicted of felony identity theft, this can result in the following:

  • Up to three years in county jail
  • A fine of up to $10,000

It should be noted that each individual time the personal identifying information is used, this is a separate case of identity theft. This means the conviction can be multiplied by the number of instances, resulting in a very large sum of penalties.

Federal Identity Theft Law

Since identity theft is such a widespread issue in the United States and can cause significant personal loss, the US legislature enacted the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998 as federal law to make identity theft a federal offense. This law is more comprehensive than California’s state law and includes the prohibition of the following:

  • Knowingly presenting someone else’s ID
  • Knowingly transferring a stolen identification document
  • Knowingly producing, transferring, possessing, or trafficking in equipment that will be used to manufacture false identification documents

A federal offense of identity theft can result in up to 30 years of prison as well as significant fines which is why it’s best to call a Sacramento criminal defense attorney to reduce your penalties.

Legal Defenses

Identity theft is a serious charge that can lead to a very complicated legal process. Some of the more common legal defenses that an experienced attorney may use to defend his or her client include:

  • No unlawful purpose – If the defendant has not used the information for any unlawful purpose, the requirements for this charge are not satisfied.
  • No fraudulent intent – Possessing someone else’s personal identifying information is not a crime in and of itself. If it can be convincingly shown that the defendant did not intend to commit fraud or use the information unlawfully, charges may be evaded.
  • False accusation – Many people jump to conclusions when in a bad situation. If an individual with which the defendant once had close contact has his or her identity stolen, the victim may believe there is a significant likelihood of the defendant being responsible for the theft. In reality, identities can be stolen through innumerous platforms – it doesn’t need to be a person with any real connection to the victim at all.

Call a Sacramento Criminal Defense Attorney if You’ve Been Charged of Identity Theft

The criminal justice system can be complex and tricky to navigate through. Having a Sacramento criminal defense attorney who understands how the system works and knows what legal defenses to take can make all the difference in your case and consequently, your life. As a former prosecutor and deputy district attorney, Richard Chan knows how the other side thinks.

Give us a call at (916) 446-4400 today.