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Protect Yourself Against Hefty Identity Theft Charges

Although no violence is involved in a white collar crime such as identity theft, it does not mean that the consequences are any less severe. Identity theft, considered to be both a white collar and a theft crime, is harshly prosecuted in the state of North Carolina. Simply speaking, identity theft is the fraudulent act of assuming another person's identity by finding out their personal details and information in an illicit manner. This can be done by "dumpster diving," by wrongfully using public records, or by hacking into computer systems, among other techniques.

The ways in which this theft is completed are countless, however, the end result is the same. It is important to realize that while this is considered a non-violent crime, it does not mean that law enforcement views it as a victimless crime. The ramifications of identity theft are widespread and can be severe. For this reason, law enforcement and prosecutors alike are relentless in slapping the accused with the harshest penalties possible – both as punishment and as a deterrent against possible future recurrences of this type of offense.

If you’ve been accused of identity theft, then you are facing criminal charges, and it’s likely in your best interest to consult with an attorney to learn about your options. Depending on the specifics of your case, you may be able to have your sentence minimized, your charge reduced, or you may be able to have the charge dismissed altogether. If you live here in Carteret County, or you are facing charges in Carteret County, you can count on Cummings and Kennedy for consultation and representation. We’ll work with your best interests in mind, striving to reduce the impacts of your identity theft case. If you’d like to learn more about what we can do for you, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for a free consultation.

You can also continue reading to find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions that we receive surrounding identity theft law here in North Carolina, and you can read more about some of the many benefits of hiring a defense attorney below.

Identity Theft FAQ

What is “identity theft” in the state of North Carolina?

Identity theft describes any act where an individual steals information from another person for their own personal gain. More specifically, the North Carolina statute § 14-113.20 sites that identity theft is an act wherein “(a) person who knowingly obtains, possesses, or uses identifying information of another person, living or dead, with the intent to fraudulently represent that the person is the other person for the purposes of making financial or credit transactions in the other person's name, to obtain anything of value, benefit, or advantage, or for the purpose of avoiding legal consequences is guilty of a felony [...].”

What information may be considered “stolen” under the definition of identity theft?

While you may think that an individual has to impersonate another individual to be considered an identity theft criminal, identity theft is an umbrella term that applies to the act of stealing all sorts of information to falsely represent an individual. From credit card information to internet passwords, there is a variety of information that can be stolen to qualify for an identity theft charge. The state of North Carolina notes that all of the following information falls within the protection of identity theft laws:

“(1) Social security or employer taxpayer identification numbers.

(2) Drivers license, State identification card, or passport numbers.

(3) Checking account numbers.

(4) Savings account numbers.

(5) Credit card numbers.

(6) Debit card numbers.

(7) Personal Identification (PIN) Code as defined in G.S. 14-113.8(6).

(8) Electronic identification numbers, electronic mail names or addresses, Internet

account numbers, or Internet identification names.

(9) Digital signatures.

(10) Any other numbers or information that can be used to access a person's financial

resources.

(11) Biometric data.

(12) Fingerprints.

(13) Passwords.

(14) Parent's legal surname prior to marriage.”

When is it legal to obtain the aforementioned information?

In certain circumstances, it is lawful to obtain the information mentioned above, so long as that information isn’t used illegally. For instance, it is lawful to obtain credit card information from an individual in order to complete a commercial transaction. In addition, it is lawful for creditors and financial institutions to obtain certain financial information about an individual. It is also lawful to obtain information when legally obligated to do so, or when it is otherwise legally allowed — for example, information may be obtained from an individual under a court order or warrant. If you believe you have lawfully obtained and utilized identity information, yet you’ve been accused of identity theft, you may have grounds to have the charge dropped — feel free to reach out to us for a consultation.

What consequences may I face if convicted of an identity theft charge?

Identity theft is seen as a serious crime, especially since it is not considered a victimless crime. Those charged with identity theft will face a felony sentence, as well as a variety of punishments, including fines and fees, jail time, and/or community service, among other punitive measures. Most identity theft offenses are considered Class G felonies, and they may be met with a sentence of up to 80 months in prison, and up to $50,000 in fines.

An individual may also face a more serious sentence (up to a Class F felony charge) if there is theft of more than three individuals’ information, or if the victim of the crime was arrested, detained, or incarcerated as a consequence of identity theft. An individual may face a Class E felony charge if they trafficked stolen information.

In addition, victims of identity theft may pursue a civil court case against a suspect, and the suspect may be required to pay damages of $5,000 per incident, or up to three times the cost of the damage incurred.

Do I have to be a Carteret County resident to be charged with identity theft in that county?

No. Any citizen may be charged with identity theft in Carteret County, North Carolina for a variety of reasons. A county may file charges on behalf of an individual based on the residence of the alleged victim for an identity theft case, or if the crime was committed in that county, or if the defendant resides in the county. North Carolina statute outlines where an individual may be tried for an identity theft offense:

“In any criminal proceeding brought under G.S. 14-113.20, the crime is considered to be committed in the county where the victim resides, where the perpetrator resides, where any part of the identity theft took place, or in any other county instrumental to the completion of the offense, regardless of whether the defendant was ever actually present in that county.”

Can I be charged with multiple infractions at the same time?

Yes. Multiple charges may be applied if an individual committed multiple crimes. For instance, an individual may commit burglary and identity theft simultaneously if they break into a home to steal information to be used for their benefit. An individual may face multiple sentences for any number of criminal offenses.

Can identity theft be expunged from my record?

In some cases, an identity theft charge may be expunged from an individual’s record. If the identity theft case was dismissed or a not-guilty disposition was rendered by the court, than an individual may immediately file for an expungement. In addition, an individual may have an identity theft conviction expunged from their record if they meet the following criteria:

  • The conviction sentence must be completed.
  • 10 years must have passed since the date of the conviction or since the sentence for the conviction was completed.
  • Only nonviolent offenses are eligible.
  • An individual may not have any other misdemeanor or felony convictions on their record, apart from traffic violations.
  • An individual may not have any current warrants, and they must not have any current criminal charges. 
 

Feel free to learn more about expungement law in North Carolina.

The Benefits of Hiring an Attorney

If you’re considering representing yourself in the courtroom, you may be in over your head. Hiring a defense attorney may prove to be a wise choice, since they act with your best interests in mind. Beyond that, criminal defense attorneys understand court proceedings, they know other legal professionals, and they’ll work to protect your rights.

Carteret County Criminal Lawyer for Identity Theft Defense

At Cummings & Kennedy, we recognize how difficult it can be to deal with criminal cases relating to identity theft. Beyond the simple complexities that pertain to identity theft cases, these are cases that also involve considerable technological skill. Identity theft is most often tried as an internet or computer crime – it is vastly important that the Carteret County criminal defense lawyer that represents you will have the knowledge necessary to comprehensively handle such a delicate, complicated case. At our firm, we recognize what is on the line with situations of this nature – you can be confident knowing that we will go the distance in our efforts to protect your legal rights.

If you are facing criminal charges relating to identity theft, we encourage you to contact a Carteret County identity theft lawyer from our legal team as soon as possible.