Do I Need a Lawyer for Identity Theft in Minnesota?
If you are currently under suspicion of identity theft or have already been charged with a crime, it is in your best interest to speak to an attorney right away. There are severe penalties that come with an identity theft conviction, and these penalties could haunt you for the rest of your life.
The guidance of an attorney is important in these cases because identity theft allegations are defensible. Often, the evidence used in these cases is circumstantial and inconclusive. Your attorney could make the case to the jury that the evidence against you does not merit a conviction.
The attorneys of Gerald Miller know what is at stake when facing identity theft charges. Our team will work tirelessly to help you fight back against the charges you currently face. Reach out to us today to learn more about your options.
Understanding Identity Theft Charges in Minnesota
In Minnesota, the crime of identity theft is governed by Minnesota Statutes Section 609.527. This criminal offense is designed to punish the theft or use of another person’s identity for fraudulent purposes. The statute defines identity as any name, number, or data transmission that may be used, alone or in conjunction with any other information, to identify a specific individual or entity, including any of the following:
- a name, Social Security number, date of birth, official government-issued driver’s license or identification number, government passport number, or employer or taxpayer identification number;
- unique electronic identification number, address, account number, or routing code; or
- telecommunication identification information or access device.
The crime of theft applies to anyone that transfers, possesses, or uses an identity that belongs to another person. There is also an element of intent to this offense, as the statute requires proof of intent to use the identity to commit, aid, or abet any form of illegal activity. In many cases, these identities are used to further a separate fraudulent scheme.
Penalties for Identity Theft in Minnesota
The potential penalties stemming from an identity theft conviction could cover a wide range. Depending on certain factors, you could be facing misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, or even felony charges. These factors include the financial loss suffered by the victims as well as the number of individuals who are involved.
Misdemeanor identity theft
A misdemeanor is the lowest level of criminal penalty under Minnesota state law. If convicted of misdemeanor identity theft, you could face up to 90 days in jail, a maximum fine of $1,000, or a combination of the two. Misdemeanor identity theft is the appropriate charge when the case involves a single victim and less than $250 in total losses.
Gross misdemeanor identity theft
While not a felony, the penalties associated with a gross misdemeanor are steeper than a standard misdemeanor. If convicted, you could face a fine of up to $3,000 and as much as a year in jail. The state will pursue gross misdemeanor identity theft charges in cases where there is a single victim with losses between $250 and $500.
Felony identity theft
The consequences of a felony identity theft conviction are much higher. Determining the penalties associated with a felony conviction can be confusing, as there is a sliding scale depending on the number of alleged victims and the amount of financial losses they have sustained.
A conviction for identity theft will lead to as much as five years in prison as well as a fine of up to $10,000 in cases where the total losses range between $500 and $2,500. Additionally, this penalty range applies when there are either two or three victims.
The penalties increase to a maximum of 10 years in prison and a fine of no more than $20,000 in some situations. Specifically, this range of penalties is a possibility in cases where there are between four and seven victims. Alternatively, this penalty is appropriate when the total losses are between $2,500 and $35,000.
In cases where there are more than 8 victims or the total losses exceed $35,000, the penalties are much higher. This type of felony conviction will result in up to 20 years in prison and a fine of not more than $100,000.
Potential Defenses for your Identity Theft Case in Minnesota
The fact that you have been accused of identity theft does not guarantee that you will face a conviction. In fact, many people facing identity theft charges see their cases dismissed entirely before trial. The outcome of your case will largely depend on the strength of your defense strategy.
The good news is that there are many potential defense strategies to choose from. However, these strategies apply on a case by case basis. One approach might be right for your case while another might not fit at all. Our firm could help you review the facts of your arrest and assist you with developing the appropriate defense strategy in your identity theft case.
Some allegations of identity theft result from nothing but a misunderstanding. One of the key elements of any identity theft case is that the use of the information must be unauthorized. If you were authorized by the owner of the personal information to use it, you are not guilty of a crime.
It is worth noting that this defense requires not only authorized use, but also permission to use it in the specific way alleged by the prosecutor. If you were previously permitted to use the personal information of another person but continue to do so after they withdraw that approval, this defense will not apply to you.
Sometimes the police simply misidentify the person responsible for an act of identity theft. This is especially likely in cases where the alleged identity theft occurred online. Tracking down the culprit in these cases is often based on complex technical information. Any misunderstanding regarding that information could lead the police to arrest the wrong person.
Lack of Intent
In order for the state to convict you of identity theft, they must show that you used another person’s information with fraudulent intent or for an unlawful purpose. If they cannot do so, you are entitled to an acquittal. Even if you have another person’s information without their consent, you have not committed the offense of theft unless you intended to use it for something fraudulent or illegal.
Of course, intent can be a difficult thing to prove. Even if you had no intent to use another person’s information for an unlawful purpose, the state could claim that you did. Your attorney could make the case that you lacked the intent necessary to commit this crime.
There are times when the police are so intent on pursuing criminal charges that they will violate the rights of the accused in order to secure a conviction. You have rights under the constitution that protect you from unlawful searches or seizures.
If the police search your property or person without a warrant, they could be violating your rights. This is not uncommon in identity theft cases where computers are seized. If the police attempt to use evidence seized unlawfully against you, your attorney could seek to have that evidence excluded at trial.
Any evidence procured by the government illegally could be barred from use at trial through a legal doctrine known as the “fruit of the poisonous tree.” Under this doctrine, an illegal search or seizure renders any evidence seized as a result inadmissible. In some cases, this could eliminate all of the evidence the state intended to use against you.
Talk to Gerald Miller About Your Identity Theft Charges in Minnesota
Identity theft is a serious offense, especially when large amounts of money or a high number of alleged victims are involved. In some cases, you could face as much as 20 years in prison upon conviction. Due to these stakes, it is imperative that you seek out the guidance of an attorney as soon as possible.
The attorneys of Gerald Miller are proud to serve as advocates for the accused. We will work tirelessly to ensure your rights are protected. To learn more about how we could provide you with the strongest defense available under the law, call today for a free consultation.