Identity theft, a crime that involves the unauthorized use of another individual's personal information, has become increasingly common in the digital era. Anyone who is accused of engaging in identity theft risks severe and complex legal consequences.
If you are facing identity theft charges, know that the reputable Austin identify theft attorneys at Cofer & Connelly, PLLC can provide you with invaluable support as you build a strong criminal defense strategy and fight back against the charges that could otherwise change your life for the worse.
Why Choose Our Austin Identity Theft Lawyers?
With over 65 years of combined experience, our legal team consists of former prosecutors and judges who have represented clients in more than 370 jury trials and handled thousands of cases. We can help you understand Texas state law concerning identity theft, explain the legal definitions that you need to understand your charges, the classifications of offenses that will shape your defense strategy, and the potential consequences you face if your case does not end in a favorable outcome.
Here are some more reasons our firm is a top choice to represent you:
- We provide each case with the individual attention it deserves.
- We are driven by results and experienced legal strategy
- Our firm is deeply rooted in the Austin community – founded in 1912!
- Our team possesses a wide range of skills all put towards your case
Understanding Texas Identity Theft Laws
Texas Penal Code Section 32.51 addresses identity theft and the legal repercussions associated with a conviction for identity theft offenses.
The core of the offense lies in obtaining, possessing, transferring, or using another person's identifying information without their consent. This also extends to handling information of a deceased person or a minor, which is considered equally unlawful if done without proper authorization.
Under the law, "identifying information" is any data that, alone or in combination with other information, can identify a person. This includes names, dates of birth, biometric data (such as fingerprints and retina images), electronic identification numbers, telecommunication information, and government-issued identification numbers.
Presumption of Intent in Identify Theft Cases
The law concerning identify theft in Texas presumes an intent to harm or defraud if an individual possesses identifying information of three or more people, whether living or deceased. This is a critical aspect of the law, as it shapes the burden of proof in legal proceedings. Meaning, if you were only found in possession of identifying information of one or two people without their consent, you may be able to argue more successfully that you didn’t intend to commit any harm by possessing this information.
Notably, this presumption does not apply to businesses or government agencies engaged in lawful activities, an important distinction for entities handling personal information as part of their operations. This distinction may become important if your charges are rooted in activities related to your employment.
Punishment and Severity of Identify Theft Offenses
Texas state law categorizes identity theft offenses based on the amount of identifying information compromised. The penalties for identify theft vary based on the severity of the crime and other mitigating circumstances.
The categories of identity theft offenses are:
- State Jail Felony: Involves fewer than five items of identifying information. Punishable by 180 days to 2 years in jail and up to a $10,000 fine.
- Third-Degree Felony: For five to fewer than ten items. Punishable by 2-10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
- Second-Degree Felony: For ten to fewer than fifty items. Punishable by 2-20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
- First-Degree Felony: In cases involving fifty or more items. Punishable by up to life imprisonment and up to a $10,000 fine
The law also allows for enhanced penalties for offenses committed against elderly individuals or when the stolen identity is used to facilitate certain other crimes.
Don’t take a chance when it comes to the severity of identity theft charges. Contact Cofer & Connelly, PLLC today to get experienced defense from our identify left lawyers in Austin.
Possible Defenses for Identity Theft Charges in Texas
Lack of Intent to Harm or Defraud
A central defense in identity theft cases is disproving that the defendant had any intent to harm or defraud. Texas state law explicitly requires that a defendant must have the intent to harm or defraud another to be guilty of identity theft. If it can be demonstrated that the individual lacked this intent when obtaining, possessing, transferring, or using identifying information, this can be a strong defense. For example, if the individual believed they were using the information for a legitimate purpose, this might negate the criminal intent mandatory for a conviction under the law.
Consent to Use Information
Another potent defense is establishing that the individual had consent to use the identifying information. The law specifies that illegal identity theft is committed if the information is used without the consent of the person to whom it belongs. If your defense attorney can show that the individual whose information was used had given permission, either explicitly or implicitly, the basis for the charge may no longer exist.
Mistake of Fact
A mistake of fact occurs when a person has an incorrect belief about a fact that, if true, would make their actions lawful. In the context of identity theft, this could involve the individual believing that they had the right to use the information, or that the information belonged to them or was publicly available.
Lack of Possession or Control Over the Information
Arguing that the individual did not actually possess, transfer, or use the identifying information can be a valid defense. This could apply in situations where the individual is mistakenly identified as the person who committed the theft or if they had no direct control over the information.
Each of these defenses requires a thorough understanding of the law and the specifics of the individual's situation. The experienced Austin identity theft attorneys at Cofer & Connelly, PLLC can evaluate the circumstances of your identity theft charge and determine the most appropriate defense strategy for an individual’s unique circumstances.
Call our office today at (512) 991-0576 to begin working on your case. Our team of former prosecutors and judges are standing by to provide the experienced defense you deserve.
Frequently Asked Questions About Identity Theft Charges
What Is Identity Theft Under Texas Law?
Identity theft in Texas involves the unauthorized use of another person's identifying information. If someone uses this information without consent and with the intent to harm or defraud, it is considered identity theft.
What Are The Penalties For Identity Theft In Texas?
The penalties for identity theft vary based on the number of items of identifying information involved. It ranges from a state jail felony punishable by 180 days to 2 years in jail to a first-degree felony punishable by up to life imprisonment. A fine of up to $10,000 could be imposed.
Can Lack Of Intent Be A Defense In Identity Theft Cases?
Yes, proving a lack of intent to harm or defraud can be a strong defense in identity theft cases. If it can be shown that there was no intention to use identifying information unlawfully, this may be a valid defense.
What Does 'Consent' Mean In The Context Of Identity Theft?
Consent means that the individual whose identifying information was used had given permission for its use. If the individual had consent, this could potentially nullify the identity theft charge.
Cofer & Connelly, PLLC Austin Identity Theft Attorneys
Facing charges of identity theft can be a daunting and complex process. If you or a loved one is facing identity theft charges, it is important to have knowledgeable and experienced legal representation that can provide you with a thorough analysis of the charges, a personalized assessment of legal defenses, and a strategy that can better ensure that your rights are protected and that a favorable outcome is achieved.
If you or someone you know is dealing with such charges, do not hesitate to contact the skilled Austin identify theft lawyers at Cofer & Connelly, PLLC. Our expertise in identity theft cases can help to ensure that you will receive comprehensive legal support tailored to your unique situation. For professional legal assistance, reach out to Cofer & Connelly, PLLC at (512) 991-0576 or online to learn more about how we can help. We look forward to assisting you.
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