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I Was Charged with Identity Theft: Fines, Penalties, Costs, and Sentencing

Identity theft. For the past decade or so, people have called it the fastest growing crime. There are different levels of identity theft, from making fraudulent charges with someone's financial information all the way to assuming another person's name and social security number (in other words, their identity).

What do Identifying Information and Fraudulent Intent Mean?

Identity theft does not require actually benefitting from stealing someone's identity; it only requires the intent to do so.

Identifying information comes in a variety of forms, and not every state has the same definition. Common identifiers include a person's name, social security number, driver's license number, date of birth, credit card numbers, and other financial records data. Think of identifying information as something you would use when identifying yourself.

Fraudulent intent is the second factor in that opening sentence: the intent to benefit from taking someone's identifying information. This means you do not have to actually purchase something with that credit card number you stole, you only have to intend to purchase something or benefit in some way.

There are myriad ways to steal someone's identity. Employees of financial institutions may access account holder information to either sell or use. Someone may hack into another person's computer to steal their information. Someone may claim to be a representative of the IRS, demanding payment or personal information. Someone may steal mail or garbage looking for documents containing personal information. These are only a few examples of what constitutes stealing someone's identity.

What are the Penalties for Identity Theft?

Penalties and fines vary from state to state. Typically, though, you can expect to face at least one of these penalties if convicted of identity theft: fines, incarceration, probation, and restitution.

All penalties depend on whether you face felony or misdemeanor charges (this varies by state as well). With so much variability among the states, we offer some examples of the fines and penalties you can expect in three different states.

What are the Penalties for Identity Theft in Arizona?

The state of Arizona lists identity theft as a Class 4 felony, though certain aggravating factors bump it up to Class 3 or Class 2. These include committing identity theft for employment purposes, causing economic losses in excess of $3,000, or stealing three or more identities.

Depending on the charge and mitigating or aggravating circumstances, you face incarceration of up to 24 months (Class 4) or 35 years (Class 2). Fines range between $1,000 and $150,000. You may receive probation for up to 7 years on a Class 2 felony charge, or as little as 6 months on a Class 4 felony charge.

If the victim suffered any kind of financial harm, Arizona requires restitution.

What are the Penalties for Identity Theft in Kentucky?

Kentucky exempts minors from being charged with identity theft when they use a false identity to purchase age-restricted items such as alcohol. The state also prosecutes anyone possessing five or more false identities as "trafficking" in stolen identities. In addition, Kentucky classifies "phishing" as its own distinct crime, but under similar penalties and regulations.

Both identity theft and phishing are listed in Kentucky statute as Class D felonies. The minimum sentence is 12 months, with a maximum sentence of 5 years.

Trafficking charges raise it to a Class C felony, with a minimum sentence of 5 years and a maximum sentence of 10 years. Kentucky levies fines between $1,000 and $10,000 for all felony charges. Finally, the defendant must make restitution for any financial harm, including repayment, lost wages, attorney's fees, and dealing with collections.

What are the Penalties for Identity Theft in Ohio?

Ohio legislators call this crime identity fraud, and impose higher penalties when the victim is over age 65 and based on the amount of financial damages. Every case of identity fraud is a felony in Ohio, with mitigating and aggravating factors depending on which "degree" felony was committed.

Fifth degree charges result in up to 12 months in prison and $2,500 in fines. Fourth degree conviction results in 6 to 18 months in prison and up to $5,000 in fines. Third degree carries up to 5 years in prison and $10,000 in fines. Second degree is punishable by up to 8 years in prison and $15,000 in fines. First degree convictions receive up to 11 years in prison and $20,000 in fines.

In addition, anyone convicted of identity fraud must make restitution to his or her victim.

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