Media outlets reported that police in Illinois pulled over a car on July 16th because it had false license plates. The driver claimed to be from Bloomington, Illinois, but police claim they soon discovered she was actually from Florida and was wearing a wig. The DuPage County prosecutor alleges that a Florida rental company reported the car as stolen, and the Bloomington woman’s identification and wallet were in the car, seemingly a result of a prior car burglary. The driver faces charges of forgery, possessing a stolen vehicle, and identity theft, among others. The court set a $75,000 bond.
While a Florida woman wearing a wig, driving a stolen car, and claiming to be from Illinois may seem like a movie plot, you can be sure that the multiple felony charges issued by the prosecutor are real—and will have real consequences if the State’s Attorney obtains one or more convictions.
Identity Theft Charges
Almost everyone is familiar with the term “identity theft.” Generally, you may associate identity theft with stealing someone’s information to obtain money from a bank account or make purchases with their credit card. While financial gain is a major goal in many identity theft cases, some people, like the woman described above, may use another person’s identity to give false information and identification to police. This is often an attempt to avoid an arrest based on an active warrant.
Identity theft is a crime under Illinois law—no matter how you use the false identity, or whether you even use it at all. These cases have become increasingly common due to technological advances—no longer does someone have to steal mail from a trash can, as information can be widely available via the internet and other communications. Prosecutors are quick to bring charges against people for identity theft in a wide variety of circumstances.
While there is no question that identity theft can create significant losses and problems for victims, the authorities also commonly wrongfully accuse individuals of serious identity theft offenses. Convictions can carry severe penalties, so anyone facing charges needs an aggressive and skilled defense lawyer handling their case.
Illinois law sets out a number of identity theft-related allegations:
- Using someone else’s information or identification—which can include a passport, driver’s license, social security card, or similar documents—to wrongfully obtain money, credit, property, goods, or services
- Using someone else’s information or identification to falsely claim that identity to obtain additional personal information about that person without permission, including document or records showing that person’s communications, transactions, or activities
- Possessing, obtaining, purchasing, transferring, selling, or using someone else’s information or identification intending to commit a felony offense other than obtaining money, credit, etc.
- Possessing, obtaining, purchasing, transferring, selling, or using someone else’s information or identification knowing the information was obtained or produced illegally
In addition, the law sets out two specific situations in which prosecutors may issue enhanced charges of aggravated identity theft:
- The identity theft occurred to further gang activity
- The victim of the identity theft was 60 years old or older
In this day and age, many situations may constitute identity theft that you may not expect. For example, imagine you figure out your ex’s password to their Facebook account. You look at their messages and then make a fake profile using their information to try to see who would message you (them). You may think that you are safe because you are not trying to obtain any money or apply for credit in their name. However, you are using their information to gain access to records of their communications and activities, which the Illinois statute clearly disallows. You could find yourself arrested and charged with identity theft.
Possible Consequences of Identity Theft in Illinois
Like many offenses, the potential penalties for an identity theft conviction will depend on the specific allegations in question. If the allegations include theft of money or property, the penalties will closely depend on the losses, as such:
- Less than $300 = Class 4 felony, one to three years in prison
- $301 to $2,000 = Class 3 felony, two to five years in prison
- $2,001 to $10,000 = Class 2 felony, three to seven years in prison
- $10,001 to $100,000 = Class 1 felony, four to 15 years in prison
- More than $100,000 = Class X felony, six to 30 years in prison
You can face enhanced charges if the victim of the identity theft was a military member currently in a foreign country or if you have any prior identity theft or theft-related convictions on your record. If the identity theft did not involve stealing anything of monetary value, you could face Class 3 felony charges for a first offense.
You should always take identity theft charges extremely seriously. These charges are commonly in conjunction with additional criminal allegations, as in the case above. There are several ways to defend against these charges to prevent a conviction, so you should always consult with a criminal defense attorney who knows how to thoroughly evaluate the facts of your case and design the most effective defense possible. The right attorney can work to prevent a conviction on your record, time behind bars, and other lasting consequences.
Discuss Your Situation With Our Skilled DuPage County Criminal Defense Attorneys
Criminal laws in Illinois can be complicated. Two seemingly different acts may result in the same charge, while one single act can result in multiple charges under certain circumstances. It is critical to seek help from a criminal defense lawyer who fully understands the elements of each charge under the law and knows how to defend against one or more allegations.
At the defense firm of Martin & Kent, L.L.C., we have decades of experience handling a wide range of criminal cases. We stay apprised of any new developments in Illinois law or procedure to best represent our clients. If the police arrest you for any reason, please call us day or night at (630) 474-8000. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to assist you.