Ohio police and prosecutors treat all allegations of identity thefts as felony offenses. A conviction on even a single alleged incident of what state statutes call “identity fraud” can result in spending up to a year in jail.
Strong defenses against this accusation exist, but putting together a successful case will require collecting extensive documentary evidence and interviewing as many alleged victims as possible. It helps to hire an experienced identity theft lawyer if you are charged with this crime in or around Columbus, Ohio.
The Ohio Revised Code (R.C.) classifies identity fraud as a specific type of theft and fraud. The general theft and fraud statute, R.C. 2913.02, makes it a crime to knowingly take something without the owner’s consent and/or to take something by deceit.
Separately, section 2913.49 explains that identity fraud is using, obtaining, or possessing the personal identifying information of another person, alive or dead, while intending to do one or more of the following things with that information:
The identity fraud statute also lists the personal identifying information of a person who is alive or deceased as including, but not being limited to, the name, address, telephone number, driver’s license, driver’s license number, commercial driver’s license, commercial driver’s license number, state identification card, state identification card number, Social Security card, social security number, birth certificate, place of employment, employee identification number, mother’s maiden name, demand deposit account number, savings account number, money market account number, mutual fund account number, other financial account number, personal identification number, password, or credit card number.
Regardless of the facts, an alleged identity theft will always be prosecuted as a felony. Guidelines call for basing the exact charge and sentence on the value of the items or services obtained while using a stolen identity. The penalties can increase rapidly. R.C. § 2913.49 notes that prosecutors and judges “may aggregate [add together] all credit, property, or services obtained or sought to be obtained by the offender and all debts or other legal obligations avoided or sought to be avoided by the offender in the violations involved in that course of conduct. The course of conduct may involve one victim or more than one victim.”
R.C. § 2913.49 also lists aggravating factors that raise the seriousness of the charge and therefore the sentence. For instance, stealing the identity of an elderly person, a disabled adult, an active duty member of the U.S. military, or the spouse of an active duty service member is considered a felony of the fourth degree regardless of the value of the identity or the value of the items or services obtained.
Securing an identity fraud conviction requires the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused individual did not have the consent of the person whose identity was used. As a result, no charge for identity theft can stand when the defendant was acting as a legally recognized guardian, conservator, trustee, executor, or fiduciary. Similarly, no person who grants permission to an individual to use their identity for a certain purpose can then turn around and accuse the individual of stealing their identity if the individual did not use their identity for another purpose.
One of the first things a Columbus Ohio identity theft lawyer will do for their client is search for and analyze contracts, emails, and other documents to find evidence that consent for the use of another’s identity was given. The Columbus defense attorney may also speak with alleged victims whose statements could clear the accused individual of wrongdoing.
If you need advice or representation from a Columbus identity theft lawyer, consider contacting Colin Maher at The Maher Law Firm. He takes cases throughout central Ohio for a flat fee. He also offers free phone consultations for potential clients. You can call Colin directly at (614) 205-2208 or contact him online.