We Can Guide You Throughout the Whole Legal Process
If you have been accused of the crime of identity theft, there are several things that you need to know. First and foremost, an accusation is not the same as a conviction and you have a constitutional right to defend yourself to the fullest extent of the law. Since a conviction can affect many key aspects of your life, it is important to enlist a knowledgeable white collar crime attorney who can craft a strong strategy on your behalf. Our Irvine theft lawyers at the Law Office of Pilchman & Kay, A Professional Law Corporation, can fight for your rights with the vigor that you deserve. We understand that this situation may seem intimidating, and we can compassionately guide you through each step of the process.
Discuss your case by getting in touch with our firm at (949) 558-0042.
Understanding Identity Theft in California
Both state and federal laws criminalize identify theft. Under California Penal Code § 530.5, a person is guilty of the crime of identity theft if he or she willfully obtains personal identifying information and uses this information without the consent of the person whose information is used. The purpose of using the information does not need to be illegal but additional criminal charges may result if it is. In addition, California Penal Code § 530 makes it a crime to falsely impersonate another person in order to obtain money or property.
The crime of identity theft is considered to be a “wobbler” offense in California, meaning that it can be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor (a conviction of which could result in up to a year in jail) or a felony (which carries a sentence of more than a year in prison). Typically, the prosecuting attorney makes the decision as to whether to prosecute identity theft as a misdemeanor or a felony when he or she initiates the charges against the defendant. Later, a judge may decide to change this, or the defendant's attorney may request a reduction in the level of the offense as part of a plea bargain.
In addition to a longer potential period of incarceration, a felony conviction carries other penalties, including:
- The loss of a defendant's gun carry permit
- More involved and expensive probation
- Possible loss of a professional license
Felony Convictions May also Result in Higher Fines
At the federal level, 18 U.S.C.A. § 1028 makes it a crime to produce a false identification document knowingly and without lawful authority. The statute also criminalizes the knowing transfer of an identification document if the document was produced without legal authority, as well as various other acts involving the possession, production, transfer, or trafficking of identification documents belonging to others. A violation of § 1028 is a felony and can result in imprisonment of up to five years for certain acts and up to 30 years for more serious violations, such as identity theft used to facilitate an act of domestic or international terrorism.
Fighting Charges of Identify Theft
There are several possible defenses to a charge of identity theft, such as a lack of criminal intent or an argument that the defendant obtained the information in question lawfully or with the “victim's” consent. There are also more procedurally oriented defenses that may be available, including an illegally executed search warrant or an unreasonable seizure.
It should be remembered that, in criminal cases, the burden is always on the State to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Moreover, the defendant does not need to testify against him or herself. This freedom from self-incrimination is guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, although it may be waived if the defendant and his or her attorney believe it is in the defendant's best interest to testify at trial.
Consult an Experienced Identity Theft Lawyer in Orange County
If you or a loved one has been charged with the crime of identity theft, you need an attorney who is compassionate enough to understand your stress and confusion, yet aggressive enough to zealously defend you within the bounds of the law. The knowledgeable Irvine identity theft attorneys at the Law Office of Pilchman & Kay, A Professional Law Corporation, are former prosecutors who have a firm understanding of how the district attorney's office may approach your case. We represent defendants in throughout Orange County and other nearby areas.
To schedule a free consultation with an Orange County criminal defense attorney, call us at (949) 558-0042 or contact us online.