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Possible $10,000 Fine For Identity Theft

Posted on January 31, 2014 by Mintzer Law

Victims of identity theft can spend years restoring their credit and undoing the financial damage that can result from it. Texas is like most states in enacting laws to protect its citizens from people who prey upon others by stealing their identity.

Identity Theft Laws in Texas

The Texas Penal Code section 32.51 makes it a crime for someone to possess, use or transfer identifying information belong to another person without that other person’s consent. Examples of identifying information enumerated in the statute include another person’s:

  • Name and birthdate
  • Fingerprints, voice print, retina or iris image, and other biometric data
  • Telephone or computer passwords and usernames
  • Social security numbers
  • Credit or debit cards, numbers or pin codes

The offense of identity theft in Texas includes possession, use or transfer of information about a deceased person that could have been used to identify that person when they were alive. Social security numbers or the identification of a deceased person can be used by an individual to assume the identity of the decedent to establish credit, obtain employment or for other unlawful purposes.

Presumption of Harm

Under certain circumstances, the law in Texas makes it easy for prosecutors to prove identity theft. The law presumes that a person in possession of identifying information from three or more people, regardless of whether they are alive or deceased, intends to commit fraud or do harm with the information. This eliminates the need for prosecutors to prove intent to misuse the identifying information as they would have to do if the offender was in possession of material from only one or two people.

Texas Identity Theft Defenses

The law incorporates defenses to the crime of identity theft by adding the element of intent to the description of the criminal conduct. Some defenses that might be available to a defendant in a criminal case charging identity theft in Texas include:

  • Lack of intent to deceive or cause harm to another person
  • Consent by the owner of the identifying information to its use by the person charged
  • Mistake of fact as when the identifying information proves not to be that of another person

Penalties For Identity Theft

Identity theft in Texas is a felony. The degree of felony and the penalty a court may impose in sentencing an offender depends upon the number of items possessed, transferred or used. A defendant in possession of five items or less can be charged with a state jail felony and sentenced to a fine of up to $10,000 and 180 days to two years in a state jail. Possession of fifty items or more is a first degree felony for which a person could be sentenced to prison for a minimum of five years up to a maximum of 99 years in addition to a fine up to $10,000.

Identity theft charges are very serious in the state of Texas. If you are facing identity theft accusations, then get a hold of Rand Mintzer by calling 713-862-8880.