An Overview of the Crime of Identity Theft in North Carolina

The crime of identity theft has received attention in recent years. North Carolina has criminalized the unlawful taking of another person’s identifying information for a long time. Police officers and prosecutors are well-versed in conducting investigations, gathering evidence to develop a case against you, and using other enforcement strategies. If you are facing charges of identity theft crimes, it is imperative that you discuss your case with an experienced Charlotte attorney.

The Elements of the Crime of Identity Theft

The crime of identity theft is defined in the North Carolina Identity Theft Protection Act. The Act makes it unlawful to obtain, possess, or use someone else’s identity in information with the intent to defraud him or her. It does not matter if the victim of identity theft is a child, adult, alive or dead. The defendant doesn’t need to steal a person’s information to be charged with identity theft. Any form of misappropriation or misconduct in accessing identity details without the victim’s consent could lead to an arrest for identity theft.

Prosecutors must prove the element of intent to secure a conviction for identity theft. Specifically, the prosecutors must prove that you purposely held yourself out as the person whose identity you are using. They must show that you assumed the victim’s identity for financial transactions, stole credit card information, or gained something valuable. Using another person’s identification details is also identity theft to avoid liability. Providing someone else’s identification to pay less taxes is an example of identity theft.

What Constitutes Identifying Information?

The North Carolina Identity Theft Protection Act lists several specific examples of identifying information, including banking numbers, including those for checking and savings accounts. Identifying information also includes information on a person’s state-issued ID, such as a driver’s license or U.S. passport. Personal identification number (PIN) codes and credit and debit card numbers are also considered identifying information.

Law enforcement authorities are particularly interested in charging defendants for misappropriating a person’s taxpayer ID or Social Security number. For example, stealing someone’s Social Security number could allow that person to apply for credit cards, take out loans, open bank accounts, and incur dozens of other types of liabilities, including tax evasion. Many North Carolina prosecutors aggressively pursue these types of cases, especially since they may fall under the general umbrella of federal identity theft.

Penalties for an Identity Theft Conviction

Identity theft is classified as a class G felony in North Carolina. You could face a prison sentence between eight and 31 months if convicted. If your actions result in an alleged victim being arrested, convicted, or otherwise affected, or if you are accused of stealing the identities of three or more people, the penalties will be more severe.

Class F felony charges carry a prison sentence of between 10 and 41 months. In many identity theft cases, the judge overseeing the case orders the defendant to pay the victim back any funds that were misappropriated through stolen identifying information. Doing so is referred to as paying restitution to the victim. Additionally, if you are convicted, you will have a permanent criminal record that can negatively affect your career choices, housing options, and personal relationships.

Defenses to Identity Theft Charges in North Carolina

Everyone charged with the crime of identity theft has the right to defend himself or herself in court. Working with an experienced attorney can help you establish an effective legal defense. An attorney can investigate your case and determine the evidence the prosecutor will use against you. Your attorney will be able to gather evidence that casts doubt on the prosecutor’s case against you, showing they cannot prove that all of the elements of identity theft have been met beyond a reasonable doubt.

In other cases, your constitutional rights may have been violated when law enforcement officers searched and searched your property or during or after your arrest. When it is your turn to present evidence, your attorney may engage in one or more other legal defense strategies, such as:

  • Mistaken identity
  • Lack of intent to use identifying information for fraudulent purposes
  • Showing that you were also the victim of identity theft and, as such, couldn’t have been the actual perpetrator
  • Entrapment
Schedule a Free Consultation with a Charlotte Criminal Defense Attorney

Due to the harsh penalties associated with an identity theft conviction, it is crucial that you reach out to an aggressive, skilled criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC, to schedule a free case evaluation and learn more about how we can fight for you.