What is the mandatory sentence for identity theft?

Written by becky martinez
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What is the mandatory sentence for identity theft?
Stealing and using someone else's credit card is considered identity fraud and is punishable by law. (credit card and hand image by Warren Millar from Fotolia.com)

Mandatory sentences for identity theft, also called identity fraud, depend on a variety of factors. Each state sets its own statutes for the different degrees of the offence. There are certain factors---such as the age of the offender and the amount stolen---that determine the degree of the felony. Depending on the felonious degree, consequences can include a fine, restitution, jail, prison, counselling and community service, or a combination of these penalties.

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Definition

According to the Ohio Revised Code, identity fraud includes stealing, using or lying about the following: your name, address, telephone number, driver's license, driver's license number, state identification card or number, social security card or number, birth certificate, place of employment, employee identification number, mother's maiden name, demand deposit account number, saving account number, money market account number, mutual fund account number, other financial account number, passwords and credit card numbers.

Prevalence

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics' National Crime Victimization Survey of 2005, "unauthorised use of an existing credit card account, the most prevalent type of identity theft, was experienced by about 3 million households." They further report that 7 of 10 households that were victimised suffered an average financial loss of £1,053 per household; 1.6 million households reported theft of an existing account other than a credit card; and 1.1 million households reported fraud of their personal information such as a social security number.

Conviction Rate

In 2006, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported 49,250 convictions of fraud. Of these convictions, 59 per cent were sentenced with incarceration. Median time of incarceration was 29 months of prison or four months of jail. Of the convictions, 42 per cent were also fined, 29 per cent were ordered to pay restitution, 10 per cent were ordered to treatment and 11 per cent were given community service.

Maximum Sentencing

According to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, if convicted of a first-degree felony, the maximum prison term is 10 years with a fine of up to £13,000. A second-degree felony carries a maximum sentence of 8 years prison and a fine of up to £9,750. A third-degree felony carries a maximum prison sentence of five years and a fine of up to £6,500. A fourth-degree felony carries a maximum prison term of 18 months and a fine of up to £3,250. A fifth-degree felony carries a maximum sentence of 12 months and a fine of up to £1,625.

State Laws

Each state has language which defines identity fraud or theft and its penalties. For example, Ohio law specifically states, "If the value of the credit, property, services, debt or other legal obligation involved in the violation... is £325 or more and is less than £3,250... identity fraud is a felony of the fourth degree." If the victim is elderly or disabled, the same crime becomes a third-degree felony. Rhode Island law states in its Impersonation and Identity Fraud Act that a "first offence is punishable by imprisonment for not more than three years and (the person) may be fined not more than £3,250, or both." In addition to individual state laws, individual judges are responsible for the sentencing and may or may not sentence the individual to the maximum term.

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