If you were charged with identity theft, your relationships, career, and future are on the line. If you’re convicted, your life may be changed forever. It’s important to examine what identity theft is, how it’s punished in Massachusetts, and how you can form a strong defense against these charges.
Identity Theft Explained
At its most basic definition, identity theft occurs when someone willfully uses the identifying information of someone else with the intent to commit fraud. You do not have to actually commit fraud to be found guilty of identity theft, nor must you obtain the identifying information illegally. For example, say you are at a friend’s house and see their identifying information written on a paper on top of their desk. If you then take that information to apply for a credit card in their name, you can be arrested for identity theft before you even use the card.
Massachusetts Identity Theft Penalties
In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, identity theft is charged as a felony. It’s punishable by up to 2-1/2 years in state prison, and up to a $5,000 fine. Restitution is often included on top of imprisonment and fines to restore the victim back to their original financial status prior to the fraudulent activity. For example, if the victim was sent to collections over multiple credit card bills they were unaware of, restitution would likely include the original charges, collections fees, and potentially any financial remedy needed to repair the victim’s credit score.
Identity Theft Defenses
There are several possible defenses against charges of identity theft, such as:
- No intent. You cannot be charged with identity theft if you did not intend to use the victim’s information for fraudulent activity.
- No evidence. If there’s not enough evidence to prove that either you committed the crime or that the crime occurred at all, the case may be dismissed.
- No identifying information was accessed. If the information is taken or accessed was not of an identifying nature, such as a social security number, it may not be considered identity theft.
- Mistaken identity. You were not the person who committed identity theft against the victim.
When to Call a Lawyer
Often, identity theft suspects are investigated for some time prior to there arrest while police officers gather evidence against them. During this time, your rights may potentially be violated or disregarded. If possible, contact a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney prior to being arrested. Call Thomas Kokonowski today for a consultation at (413) 525-9200 (Northampton), (413) 549-0022 (Amherst), or (413) 737-9700 (Springfield).