Need an Identity Theft Attorney in Maryland?
Identity theft is a form of fraud wherein an individual adopts the identity, or a particular aspect of an identity, of another person for personal gain. It is considered a “white collar crime” which can be defined as a non-violent crime involving deceit, deception, or concealment. While the term “white collar” seems to imply a particular professional or social status, in the case of identity theft this is largely irrelevant.
If you have been accused of identity theft in Maryland, you should consult with an attorney as soon as possible. The lawyers at Houlon Berman have extensive experience defending white collar crimes and will fight to maintain your innocence. Get in touch with us today to find out how we can help you.
Types of Identity Theft
Generally speaking there are five different types of identity theft – each defined by the type of information that is stolen or manipulated. Though the ways in which these crimes are committed may vary greatly in terms of how they are perpetrated and used, they will still fall into one of the five following categories.
The most widely understood form of identity theft used for the purpose of stealing money. Typically, credit cards or banking information are fraudulently used to make purchases, withdraw funds, or obtain loans.
Character and Criminal Theft
This specifically refers to the act of using a false identity to avoid arrest or to commit crimes without creating a criminal record. This makes use of someone’s reputation as opposed to more concrete assets.
Social Security Number
A person’s social security number is the key to unlocking huge amounts of personal information. It can be used for the simple expedient of avoiding taxes, the payment of liens, or as a tool to obtain more information about a person for further exploitation.
Medical Information Bureau
The rising cost of medical care has led to an increase in this form of identity theft. Medical or insurance information can be obtained for the purpose of having expensive procedures performed or obtaining prescription drugs.
This is the number one form of identity theft currently being used in the United States. It most frequently involves the theft or forgery of an individual’s driver’s license. This can be in an effort to avoid arrest if your own license has been suspended or does not exist. It can also be the springboard for other types of identity theft.
Criminal Sentencing for Identity Theft Crimes
The punishments for identity theft have only been developed over the past decade, as one’s ability to obtain and exploit personal information has increased drastically with the growth of the internet. In keeping with longstanding precedent, the severity of the punishment increases proportionally with the severity of the crime.
As in all laws at the State level, penalties for identity theft vary widely from region to region. If the crime is “small” enough, punishment can be as simple as straight compensation for damages done. However, greater offenses carry fines as large as $100,000 and a minimum of ten years in prison.
In 2004 the penalties for identity theft became more severe and standardized. Most notable are the ways in which sentencing can be “enhanced” by the circumstances surrounding the crime.
“Aggravated Identity Theft” is a crime which carries a minimum sentence of two years. This sentence is added to the punishment associated with any felony committed in conjunction with the theft of someone’s identity. This means that if you commit a felony while posing as someone else, you will receive two additional years of jail time because of the assumed name. If you commit an act of terrorism while using a false ID, your prison sentence will be increased by five years. In both cases these additional years of imprisonment may not be carried out while on probation.
“Abuse of Power” is another reason for enhanced sentencing for identity theft. If you are found to have been in a position of trust or power while committing the crime of identity theft, you can expect an increased sentence. As an authority figure you are seen as having broken trust inherently held by someone in a position of power.
“Phishing” is any sort of scam or strategy intended to obtain personal information for ill-intent. If you are found guilty of participating in any sort of “phishing”, you can expect an additional two years to be added to your sentence.
It is important to remember that State penalties, Federal penalties, “enhancements”, and multiple instances of the same crime are all cumulative. This means that the prison sentence and fines associated with every single crime and in every jurisdiction will be added together for a total sentence, which could exceed several decades in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.
What to Do If You Have Been Accused of Identity Theft
The very first step you must take after being charged with any crime is to obtain legal counsel. Due to variations in sentencing and the potential severity of the charges, this is especially true for identity theft. Mistakes or oversights made early in your case can translate into a disaster down the road.
The skilled attorneys at Houlon Berman have the experience necessary to aid you in navigating the sometimes murky waters of the US criminal justice system. Your most favorable results will depend on having a solid defense from the very beginning and Houlon Berman has what it takes to make them happen.
Contact Houlon Berman
After 40 years serving Maryland residents in Potomac, Bethesda, Rockville, Greenbelt, College Park, Upper Marlboro and D.C., our focus has remained on providing excellent personal attention to our clients. This, combined with our superior level of knowledge and skill, has led to our high reputation and continuing success.
Return to the Houlon Berman Homepage