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San Diego Identity Theft LAYWER

Mount a Solid Defense Against Identity Theft Charges  |  Zentz &  Zentz

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Providing Legal Counsel to Individuals Charged with Identity Theft in San Diego, CA

Today’s world is incredibly dependent on digital communications, and more people are conducting business over the internet than ever before. Unfortunately, the convenience of digital commerce has come with a tradeoff in personal security. Specifically, everyone’s personal information is potentially subject to misappropriation whenever personal details are entered anywhere online. “Identity theft” is a term used to describe the misappropriation of another person’s credentials to steal from them digitally or impersonate them for personal gain. The federal government takes identity theft very seriously, and identity theft crimes are prosecuted in federal court.

If you are charged with identity theft, it is essential to know your rights and what you can do to defend yourself against identity theft charges. The US Congress passed the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act (ITADA) in 1998, making identity theft a federal crime. The ITADA defines identity theft as the knowing use or transfer of the means of identification of another person without their consent to commit, aid, or abet unlawful activity using that identifying information. It is important to note that ITADA not only makes it a crime to use another person’s identifying information, but it is also illegal to obtain another person’s identifying information, even if the information is not used to commit any criminal activity.

The San Diego identity theft lawyers at Zentz & Zentz can provide the criminal defense counsel you need if you face identity theft charges in federal court. The penalties for an identity theft conviction can be extreme, and many identity theft cases involve complex technical details that demand the attention of a highly experienced criminal defense attorney. Our team can offer a comprehensive legal defense, helping you explore every available avenue of defense in your case and gathering all evidence needed to clear you of the charges filed against you. In addition, we have experience handling cases at the federal level and are not afraid to represent our clients in the most challenging cases before federal court judges.

What Are the Three Types of Identity Theft?

“Identity theft” is a relatively broad term that can apply to many types of offenses. The term applies to any situation in which one party obtains the identifying information of another party without the other party’s consent. If they use this information in any way for personal gain, these actions are likely to increase their penalties if convicted. The three most commonly perpetrated forms of identity theft in the United States are:

  • Financial identity theft. This type of identity theft involves the unlawful use of another person’s identifying information to take control of their financial accounts. For example, stealing another person’s Social Security number, email access credentials, and banking account login information could allow almost complete access over the victim’s banking information. Protecting your Social Security number is one of the best methods of preventing yourself from becoming a victim of financial identity theft. You should also refrain from sharing your bank account information with anyone other than your spouse and immediate family members. However, identity theft among family members is quite common.
  • Medical identity theft. This form of identity theft typically pertains to one party using another person’s identity to obtain medical treatment, such as securing prescriptions for medications intended for the victim of the identity theft. Therefore, it’s vital to pay close attention to your medical insurance statements, explanation of benefits forms, and other documentation related to your health care. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, you should contact your health insurance provider and your care teams immediately to notify them of the issue.
  • Online identity theft. This term is quite broad and generally applies to impersonating others on publicly viewable websites, such as social media platforms. Online identity theft can also apply to perpetrators unlawfully accessing others’ online shopping accounts and completing purchases using saved payment information.

Any of these offenses can entail severe penalties. Typically, an individual convicted of identity theft will be responsible for repaying the victim for the total value of funds and assets misappropriated plus penalty assessments, fines, and jail time. Therefore, if you are arrested and charged with committing any type of identity theft, it is vital to know your rights and the value of reliable defense counsel as your case unfolds.

Can Identity Theft Charges Be Dropped In San Deigo?

If you are accused of any criminal activity involving identity theft, it is crucial to obtain reliable defense representation as soon as possible. The faster you secure defense counsel, the better your chances of forming a credible defense and avoiding conviction. There really is no good reason to wait to secure an attorney after you are arrested for identity theft charges. A good San Diego identity theft attorney can help their client form several potential defenses:

  • It’s possible to have your charges dropped if you can prove that you did not obtain or use someone else’s personal information. In any criminal case, the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt rests on the prosecution. If they do not have sufficient evidence to close their case, the judge will likely drop the charges.
  • It is also possible to avoid conviction by proving that you did not have any illegal intention for obtaining or using another person’s identifying information.
  • False accusations can also lead to dropped charges. For example, if the alleged victim falsely accused you of stealing their identifying information and your attorney helps you prove otherwise, you will likely have your charges dropped.
  • A good attorney will challenge the validity of the prosecution’s evidence through every phase of litigation. Finally, it’s up to the prosecution to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and if they cannot accomplish this, it is likely the defendant can avoid conviction.

The attorneys at Zentz & Zentz will work closely with you to help you determine the best approach to defending yourself against identity theft charges.

What Is the Average Jail Time for Identity Theft Cases?

The ITADA is relatively rigid when it comes to the potential penalties for identity theft. For example, it’s common for individuals convicted of identity theft to face 15 to 30 years in prison depending on the scope of the identity theft-related activities they committed, the extent of the damage to the victim, and any other illegal actions taken during their activities. Federal identity theft cases typically carry a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison, but aggravating factors and attached criminal charges can easily extend the jail time in these cases.

Can I Be Sued for Identity Theft in California?

If you commit identity theft and victimize another person, you will face not only criminal prosecution at the federal level but also civil liability for the damages the victim incurred. The victim can file a personal injury claim and seek compensation for their losses. Typically, a personal injury claim allows the plaintiff to claim total compensation for all economic losses sustained due to another party’s actions, but they can also claim additional compensation for pain and suffering. In identity theft cases, this typically applies to emotional distress. A plaintiff with a good attorney could hold a defendant liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress if they can prove that the defendant knowingly victimized the plaintiff for personal gain.

The victim of identity theft may also receive restitution due to the criminal case filed against the defendant by the state. The judge may order the defendant to pay the victim back for all economic losses they caused. However, the victim would still be justified in pursuing a civil claim against the defendant for emotional distress, lost income, and any other losses they may have incurred because of the identity theft. Ultimately, a defendant could avoid conviction in the criminal case filed in federal court but still be liable for the victim’s damages in a civil claim. This is because claims filed in civil court have a less severe burden of proof than a federal criminal case. The threshold for conviction in a federal criminal case is “beyond a reasonable doubt,” but the threshold in a civil case is “based on a preponderance of the evidence.”

Common Examples of Identity Theft Cases

If you commit any action for personal gain that requires using another person’s identifying information without their consent, such actions qualify as identity theft. A few of the most commonly reported forms of identity theft that can occur in California and throughout the United States include:

  • Using stolen bank account information, such as PINs and bank account passwords.
  • Using stolen credit cards. Unfortunately, many retail establishments do not verify cardholder ID when accepting credit card payments from customers.
  • Committing mail fraud, which includes any fraudulent activity conducted through the postal service. This can include stealing personal documents from another person’s mailbox or intercepting packages.
  • Stealing another person’s Social Security number for personal use.
  • Using another person’s Social Security number for any reason.
  • Money laundering schemes.
  • Fraudulently posing as another person to commit any type of medical fraud, such as obtaining prescriptions intended for someone else.
  • Forging another person’s signature on any kind of official documents. For example, signing up for credit cards using another person’s information.

Any of these actions can lead to significant criminal penalties, and the extent of the activity typically informs the defendant’s sentencing. If the defendant committed any other criminal offenses in their identity theft, it is very likely they will face penalties that exceed federal minimum sentencing standards.

What to Expect From Your San Diego Identity Theft Attorney

Every American citizen has constitutional rights that come into play when they are accused of committing a crime. Specifically, you must understand your Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination and your Sixth Amendment right to legal counsel when accused of a crime. Upon your arrest, the arresting officers must read you your Miranda rights, informing you of your right to remain silent and your right to legal counsel. It’s vital to understand the words, “Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” Do not attempt to explain the situation or talk your way out of your arrest. Remain silent until you have legal counsel on your side.

The police will also inform you that you have the right to an attorney, and if you can’t afford an attorney, one can be provided to you at no cost. This means that you have the right to legal counsel from a public defender if you cannot afford to hire a private defense attorney or do not wish to pay for one. This right to a public defender also applies in federal criminal cases; federal public defenders provide defense counsel free of charge to clients facing criminal prosecution at the federal level. Unfortunately, while most public defenders are capable and dedicated attorneys, they generally cannot provide much in the way of individualized attention due to the demanding caseloads they manage.

A private San Diego identity theft attorney can provide a more robust level of defense than even the best public defender. The attorneys at Zentz & Zentz believe in providing every client we represent with aggressive, detail-oriented, and responsive defense representation in identity theft cases. In addition, we have extensive experience handling defense counsel in federal court and know how most federal prosecutors tend to pursue convictions in identity theft cases.

Many identity theft cases involve complex digital machinations and technical concepts that you need to explain before a federal court. Our team can coordinate expert witness testimony to help you handle the more detailed aspects of your case. Forensic accountants, digital researchers, and many other experts could play pivotal roles in your identity theft case.

Ultimately, our goal is to help our clients avoid conviction whenever possible. If conviction is a certainty in light of the prosecution’s airtight case, our focus will shift to minimizing your sentence as much as the law allows. The sooner you secure legal counsel following your arrest, the better your chances will be of securing the most favorable result possible in your case. Contact Zentz & Zentz today to schedule a consultation with an experienced and reliable San Diego identity theft attorney.

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