Identity Theft Lawyer in Houston
Identity theft is defined as the use of another’s personal identifying information without their permission. In the past several years, rates of identity theft throughout the nation have risen dramatically. Now, more than ever before, technology and the internet have made identity theft one of the most profitable and common theft crimes. Statistically, identity theft affects more than 12 million Americans each year, resulting in billions of dollars in losses.
Given the incredible impact identity theft has had throughout the nation, law enforcement agencies at federal, local, and state levels have devoted extensive resources into enforcing fraud and identity theft laws. These agencies are intent on gaining convictions, and anyone who faces these allegations can expect invasive investigations, aggressive prosecution, and harsh penalties. For these very reasons, accused individuals should be focused on working with experienced Houston criminal defense lawyers who have the tools and talent to protect their futures.
Texas Identity Theft Laws & Penalties
Texas law – Texas Penal Code § 32.51 and the Identity Theft Enforcement and Protection Act – outlines state identity theft laws. A person commits identity theft if they obtain, possess, transfer, or use identifying information of another person (1) without another’s consent and (2) with the intent to harm or defraud.
Examples of identifying information may include the following:
- Another’s name, social security number, date of birth, or a government issued identification number;
- Unique biometric data such as fingerprints, voice prints, or retina or iris images;
- Unique electronic identification numbers, including addresses, routing codes, and account numbers; and
- Telecommunication identifying information or access devices. These may include cards, codes, account, or serial numbers, or other telecommunication identifiers for account access used to obtain things of value.
Penalties for identity theft can vary according to a number of factors, particularly the amount of identifying items involved, an individual’s criminal record, and whether any additional fraud offenses were committed, including internet crimes such as phishing. Elevated penalties may also be assessed if the victim was an elderly individual or if charges include federal crimes.
Generally, identity theft can be charges as the following:
- State jail felony if the number of items obtained, possessed, transferred, or used is less than five;
- Felony of the third degree if the number of items obtained, possessed, transferred, or used is five or more but less than 10;
- Felony of the second degree if the number of items obtained, possessed, transferred, or used is 10 or more but less than 50; or
- Felony of the first degree if the number of items obtained, possessed, transferred, or used is 50 or more.
Because Texas has one of the highest rates of identity theft crimes in the nation, penalties are severe. Although there are a number of unique circumstances at play in these cases, punishment can include large fines and imprisonment can range from 180 days to life in prison. Life sentences may not be common in identity theft cases, but prosecutors have pursued them. In any event, these severe penalties highlight the fact that the consequences can be life altering.
Discuss Your Defense During a Consultation
Houston criminal defense attorney Billy Skinner and our firm’s entire legal team are dedicated to providing our immediate support and assistance to individuals facing identity theft allegations. If you would like to learn more about the charges and penalties you face and how the Law Offices of Billy Skinner can help, do not hesitate to contact a criminal lawyer in Houston by calling (713) 600-7777 or filling out a case evaluation form.