Millions of Americans have fallen victim to this unsettling crime. Prosecutors rely on this fact to bias jurors against defendants in identity theft cases. But in many ways, identity theft is like most other internet crimes. Get past the hype and fear, and identity theft is just another basic theft case. These cases are straightforward, difficult for prosecutors to prove, and rather easy to defend.
The straightforward Allentown identity theft attorneys at van der Veen, Hartshorn and Levin are well-suited to defend people against identity theft charges. Prosecutors and their investigator allies do not intimidate us, because we have vast resources, and vast legal experience, to draw on. More importantly, we know how to use the tools we have. And, we do not let up until we obtain the best possible result under the circumstances.
The Basis for Identity Theft Charges in Allentown
In Pennsylvania and most other states, theft is simply taking someone else’s property without permission. We usually think of theft in terms of things like shoplifting, writing a bad check, or intentionally underscanning items at checkout. But theft can involve any sort of force or deception. That includes surreptitiously taking someone’s credit card number, using another person’s personal information to apply for a loan, and other acts commonly associated with identity theft.
Possible penalties largely depend on the defendant’s alleged actions, amount of property, and status of the alleged victim.
- Amount: Theft under $2,000 is generally a misdemeanor; theft over $2,000 is generally a felony. Special rules may apply depending on the item involved. Moreover, it’s not always easy to assign an objective value in a theft of services case.
- Status: If the alleged victim is over 60, prosecutors may elevate the theft charges one level. In other words, a first degree misdemeanor would become a third degree felony.
- Actions: Identity theft cases often involve criminal conspiracies. The person who wrongfully takes information may not be the same person who subsequently uses the ill-gotten credit card. Criminal conspiracy as part of an identity theft scheme is a third degree felony.
Favorable pretrial dispositions are available in many theft cases, especially if the defendant is charged with a misdemeanor and has no criminal history. These dispositions often include pretrial diversion. In some jurisdictions, if the defendant makes restitution and completes other program requirements, prosecutors will dismiss the case.
Defending Identity Theft Cases in Allentown
In this area, identity theft cases are much like assault cases. If the case goes to trial, the prosecutor must normally call a civilian witness to satisfy the burden of proof. Occasionally, the state’s lawyers can use legal loopholes to get around this requirement. But these efforts are usually unsuccessful.
There is an important technical requirement. The victim named in the charging documents must be the same victim who testifies in court. If prosecutors are alert and catch the variance, there is usually no problem. In other cases, the judge may throw out the case.
Most police officers are experienced, professional witnesses. They may testify in dozens of cases every year. Moreover, they often receive overtime pay for appearing in court. But civilian witnesses are not professionals. They may be unconvincing on the witness stand. Moreover, the trial usually occurs a number of months after the alleged incident. By that time, memories have faded, and the witness may not have access to recollection-refreshing documents.
This discussion assumes the witness is available at all. After many months, some alleged theft victims lose interest in these cases. They may even move to other addresses which are outside the court’s subpoena range. Generally, if there is no witness, there is no case.
Count on Dedicated Identity Theft Attorneys
Once an attorney gets jurors to focus on the facts instead of the hype, prosecutors are hard-pressed to win identity theft cases. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Allentown, contact van der Veen, Hartshorn and Levin. We are available 24/7/365.