Identity theft is a white-collar offense in North Carolina. However, just because the crime is often non-violent does not mean that it is not treated seriously by law enforcement officials in our state.
This crime is a felony offense, and you could face a lengthy prison sentence if you are convicted. However, a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer in Charlotte can help you mount a strong defense that may result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense through a plea agreement with the prosecutor.
What Is Identity Theft in North Carolina?
In our state, identity theft is a crime involving the illegal use of an individual’s identifying information to make purchases, obtain property or other things of value, or avoid legal consequences. The victim of this crime can be a living or deceased person.
This crime is charged as a Class G felony. Under N.C.G.S. 14-113.20, a person can be convicted of this crime if all of the following can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The accused obtained, possessed, or used the identifying information of the victim.
- The accused intended to use the victim’s identifying information to represent that they were this person.
- The purpose of the accused was to use the identifying information to make financial or credit transactions in the victim’s name, to obtain something of value or benefit, or to avoid legal consequence.
What Is Considered Identifying Information?
Identifying information is broadly defined under the statute. It includes:
- Social security and employer tax ID numbers
- Check and saving account numbers
- Credit card numbers
- Debit card numbers
- Personal identification (PIN) code
- Electronic identification numbers, electronic mail names or addresses, or internet account names or account numbers
- Digital signatures
- Any other numbers that can be utilized to access the victim’s financial resources
- Biometric data
- Parent’s legal surname prior to their marriage
When Identity Theft Can Be Charged as a More Serious Felony
The charges against a defendant can be elevated to a Class F felony in some situations. If the victim was arrested, detained, or convicted due to the identity theft or the accused has the identifying information of three or more individuals, the crime could be charged as a Class F felony.
Trafficking in Stolen Identities
It is considered trafficking in stolen identities to sell, transfer, or purchase the identifying information of another individual with the intent to commit identity theft. This crime can also be committed if someone assists another individual in committing identity theft. Trafficking in stolen identities is a Class E felony
Penalties for Identity Theft and Trafficking in Stolen Identities
North Carolina uses a complicated sentencing system that takes into account a defendant’s prior criminal convictions and other factors in punishing an individual convicted of identity theft. They could be sentenced as follows:
- Class G felony: 6 to 31 months in jail or prison.
- Class F felony: 10 to 41 months in jail or prison
- Class E felony: 15 to 63 months in prison
In addition, the defendant could be ordered to pay restitution to the victim and the costs of correcting their credit report or defending against any actions brought against them due to the identity theft.
What You Should Do If You Are Charged With Identity Theft
It can be frightening to be arrested for identity theft given the harsh consequences you could face if you are convicted. However, you can protect your legal rights and avoid making your situation worse. Here are three important first steps you should take:
- Cooperate in your arrest. You should cooperate with the police when you are arrested. If you resist arrest, you could face additional charges and put yourself in danger.
- Remain silent. You will need to provide the police with your identifying information. However, you do not have to answer their questions or offer any other information. You should immediately exercise your constitutional right to remain silent so that your statements are not used against you.
- Retain an attorney. You should hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. An attorney can help you get released from jail, be present whenever you are questioned by the police, and can identify and raise the defenses that will help you achieve the best possible outcome in your criminal case.
Were you charged with identity theft in Charlotte? Call our office to schedule your free consultation today to learn how we can assist you.