Identity theft is a growing crime across the U.S. that involves stealing the personal identity information of another for financial gain. It is a form of fraud. It can mean stealing someone’s name, banking information, Social Security number, driver’s license, passport, Medicare or other health care ID, and anything else that identifies the individual. Identity theft can even include stealing another’s passwords. Banking information can include checking, savings, and investment account numbers, information about balances, deposits, and withdrawals. This offense can include stealing another’s identity to then obtain credit, cash, other financial benefits, or to commit any other crime under the victim’s name.
Under Washington law RCW 9.35.020, identify theft is defined as knowingly obtaining, possessing, using, or transferring “a means of identification or financial information of another person, living or dead, with the intent to commit, or to aid or abet, any crime.”
The penalties for identity theft include jail or prison time, fines, potential restitution to victims, and probation. When the offense of identity theft involves obtaining anything valued at less than $1,500, it is charged as a Class C felony. This is punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
When anything valued in excess of $1,500 is obtained through identify theft or when it targets a senior or another individual deemed vulnerable, the crime is charged as a Class B felony. It is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $20,000.
If you are convicted of identity theft, you are also open to a civil lawsuit for damages of $1,000 or the actual amount of damages suffered by the victim, whichever is greater. This can include the expenses needed to remedy the victim’s credit report as well as to pay for attorney fees.
Washington State also has a separate law RCW 9.35.010 that is labeled “improperly obtaining financial information.” Under this law, you may not “obtain or attempt to obtain, or cause to be disclosed or attempt to cause to be disclosed to any person, financial information” from a financial institution or a merchant, or anyone else with financial information. This involves making false statements with the intention to deceive in order to have the financial institution release information to you. Violation of this law is also a Class felony with penalties as stated above along with $500 in damages or the actual amount of damages, whichever is greater.
Identity theft is a serious matter for which you will need an experienced and dedicated criminal defense lawyer. At Hester Law Group, we have used our extensive experience to assist individuals charged with various offenses, including identity theft. We advise you to seek our advice and proven representation to ensure that you have capable professional help when facing down the criminal justice system.
Contact an attorney at Hester Law Group at (253) 300-3034 for a free, initial consultation about your criminal investigation or charges today.