Charged with Identity Theft in Texas?
Have you, a friend or a loved one been charged with a crime involving identity theft in Fort Worth, Texas? Generally, identity theft charges are filed as one of the following crimes: credit/debit card abuse or fraudulent use or possession of identifying information. If you have been charged with any of the charges below, you need to contact an experienced and aggressive Fort Worth criminal lawyer right away.
If you or a loved one has been charged with credit or debit card abuse in Texas, you should hire a criminal attorney with a proven track record of successfully defending these charges. Why? Under Texas law, credit and debit card abuse is a felony crime, regardless of the value of the loss alleged. In fact, you can face up to two years in a state jail facility and a fine of up to $10,000. If the allegations involve an elderly person over the age of sixty-five, the crime is enhanced to a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. I encourage you to visit our page that speaks exclusively on this subject for possible defenses and an overview of Texas criminal law regarding Credit or Debit Card Abuse.
When discussing the topic of criminal identity theft charges in Texas, we must first identify what the crime entails and how it normally happens under Texas law. The most common means of identity theft in Texas is when someone steals someone’s wallet or purse and take the driver’s license, social security card and other identifying information and commits fraud. On occasion, we will see instances when someone will send a victim’s billing information to another address by doing a change of address form and then hijacking their account information for fraud. Finally, Texas citizens will sometimes find themselves the victim of a skimming scheme where a skimmer will be used to obtain a victim’s credit or debit card information.
What if you have been accused of this type of behavior but you are innocent of the charges? It becomes critical to understand what Texas law says must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt by the State of Texas.
Fraudulent Use or Possession of Identifying Information
Under Texas Penal Code, Section 32.51, a person commits the crime of Fraudulent Use or Possession of Identifying Information (aka identity theft) if he, with intent to harm or defraud another, obtains, possesses, transfers, or uses an item of:
- Identifying information of another person without their consent; or
- Information concerning a deceased natural person that would be identifying information of that person were that person alive, if the item of information is obtained, possessed, transferred, or used without legal authorization; or
- Identifying information of a child younger than 18 years of age. When determining what qualifies as “identifying information,” Texas law specifies that any information that identifies a person is sufficient. Examples of “identifying information” include, but are not limited to social security cards, financial account numbers or information, and government-issued identification numbers.
How does someone know if they have “consent,” as defined under Texas law? Consent is defined under Texas Penal Code 1.07(a)(11) and must be express or apparent. The law speaks about “assent in fact,” which means there must be an actual or real agreement between the parties. In other words, assuming you have consent is not going to meet the definition of consent under Texas criminal law.
What Qualifies As “Identifying Information” Under Texas Penal Code 32.51?
In order to be charged with Fraudulent Use Or Possession of Identifying Information, the State of Texas must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the information alleged to have been possessed or used identified the individual, including: their name and date of birth, unique data specific to that individual such as a fingerprint, voice authorization or retina/iris image, unique electronic identification numbers, addresses, routing numbers or financial account numbers; telecommunication identifying information or device; and social security number or government identification number.
How Does The State of Texas Prove Criminal Intent To Harm Or Defraud?
Texas Penal Code, Section 32.521 outlines that there is a presumption of intent to harm or defraud another if the person possesses: (1) the identifying information of three or more persons; (2) identifying information of three or more deceased persons or (3) identifying information of three or more persons or deceased persons. This presumption ONLY applies to individuals that are in possession of these items, not a business that engages in business activity.
Fines and Jail Time for Identity Theft Convictions in Texas
If you have been arrested and charged with Fraudulent Use or Possession of Identifying Information, your level of felony charge will be determined by the quantity of the identifying information that was fraudulently used or possessed:
- If the number of items obtained, possessed, transferred, or used is less than five, the crime will be classified as a State Jail Felony, punishable by a prison sentence up to 2 years in a Texas State jail facility and a $10,000 fine.
- If the number of items obtained, possessed, transferred, or used is 5 or more but less than 10, the crime will be a third-degree felony, punishable by a prison sentence up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
- If the number of items obtained, possessed, transferred, or used is 10 or more but less than 50, the crime will be a second-degree felony, punishable by a prison sentence up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
- If the number of items obtained, possessed, transferred, or used is 50 or more, the crime will be a first-degree felony, punishable by a prison sentence up to 99 years or life in prison and a $10,000 fine.
False Statement To Obtain Property Or Credit
Within the framework of criminal identity theft crimes in Texas, one must consider the Texas crime of False Statement To Obtain Property Or Credit. Under Texas Penal Code 32.32, a person commits the crime of False Statement To Obtain Property or Credit if he intentionally or knowingly makes a materially false or misleading statement (written) to obtain property or credit, including mortgage loans.
This Texas law is focused on criminalizing individuals making false statements. As such, the obtaining of credit or property is not a primary requirement of what the State of Texas must prove beyond a reasonable doubt. In fact, if a false statement to obtain property or credit case proceeds to a jury trial, the prosecutor is not required to prove a certain amount of loss or credit obtained, only that a written and deceptive statement relevant to obtaining the property or credit was provided to the institution.
Obviously, the best criminal attorneys recognize that the elements of criminal intent and “false or misleading” statements is the area to attack when defending citizens from this crime. Many times, the interpretation of the statement or analyzing of the evidence regarding criminal intent can be subjective and open to interpretation. Experienced and aggressive criminal attorneys will thoroughly analyze this subjective evidence to attempt to establish that the prosecutor is unable to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, thereby providing their clients with leverage to negotiate a favorable result.
Punishment Range For False Statement To Obtain Property Or Credit
Under Texas Penal Code 32.32, a conviction for false statement to obtain property or credit can carry a range of punishment ranging from a Class C Misdemeanor, punishable by a fine only of up to $500, up to a first-degree felony, punishable by a prison sentence of up to life in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. The primary determining factor for the punishment range is based upon the value of the credit or property obtained as a result of the false statement. Similar to theft charges, the more expensive the property or credit obtained, the more serious the consequences for punishment.
Grand Jury Presentations For Your Legal Defense
If you are facing a criminal identity theft charge and it has been filed as a felony crime, it is critical that you act quickly to preserve your opportunity to present evidence to a grand jury. There is nothing more sickening and upsetting than to be accused of a crime that you did not commit. Being convicted of identity theft not only carries the penalties associated with being a convicted felon, but you are also labeled as dishonest and a thief because identity theft is associated as a crime of dishonesty.
The most effective way to attack a felony identity theft case in Texas is to obtain access to the evidence, prepare a legal defense and submit an evidence packet for presentation to a grand jury. Under Texas law, every felony crime must be presented to a grand jury. A grand jury is comprised of a group of twelve citizens that listen to evidence and determine if probable cause exists to substantiate the case as a felony.
Generally speaking, a grand jury has three options: (1) true bill the case, which effectively keeps the charge as a felony and assigns it to a felony district court; (2) lower the felony to a lesser felony or misdemeanor charge, or (3) No Bill the case. A no bill is the equivalent of a dismissal and exoneration of the charge.
Here is the problem, if you do not hire an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney to prepare a grand jury presentation, the grand jury will only hear the prosecutor’s side of the story and it drastically reduces the probability of your felony identify theft case being dismissed or lowered to a lesser charge. As such, it is critical that you do not delay in find the best criminal attorney in your area.
If you have been arrested and charged with an Identity Theft crime in Fort Worth, Tarrant County, Fort Worth, Arlington, Hurst, Euless, Bedford, Mansfield, or surrounding areas, you need an aggressive and experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side.
Whether you have been charged with Credit/Debit Card Abuse, Fraudulent Use or Possession of Identifying Information, or False Statement To Obtain Property Or Credit, a felony conviction could carry with it the prospect of jail time, hefty fines, and other serious long-term consequences.
At The Hampton Law Firm, you have the opportunity to work with a team of Former Prosecutors with over 85 years of criminal law experience and over 550 criminal jury trials in Tarrant County, Texas and other criminal courts in the North Texas area. We stand ready to protect your freedom and your future.
Contact the Hampton Law Firm now to schedule a free consultation to determine your rights and legal options at 817-435-2909.