Many people fall victim to identity theft, but if you’re wrongly charged with the crime, it can disrupt your life, as it carries serious consequences for a conviction. These are the identity theft laws in Michigan and what to expect if you’ve been charged.
Identity theft explained
Identity theft is one of many white-collar crimes. It occurs when a person knowingly and deliberately steals someone else’s personal or financial information for their own gain. Using any personally-identifying information such as names, social security numbers, birthdates and other information fraudulently can result in serious consequences. In Michigan, identity theft is classified as a felony due to the long-term and sometimes irreversible damaging effects victims can suffer. It can be charged on the local, state and federal level.
Penalties for identity theft
Penalties for identity theft depend on the severity of the crime and whether a person has any prior convictions. For a first conviction, penalties include five years in prison or a $25,000 maximum fine or both. A second conviction carries up to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $50,000 or both. Three or more prior convictions result in up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $75,000 or both.
Individuals convicted of identity theft must also make full restitution by paying back any money fraudulently obtained through the use of a victim’s personally-identifying information.
Possible defenses to identity theft
One of the most common defenses to identity theft is that the person gave consent to the defendant to use their personal information. Another is that the defendant used personally-identifying information to obtain a gift for that person.
Improper search and seizure is another potential defense against identity theft. Law enforcement must have a warrant issued by a judge to search someone’s computer and online activity. If they don’t, it infringes on the person’s 4th Amendment rights.