Crimes in which alleged offenders use other people’s personal information without permission to obtain credit or commit other financial wrongdoing are commonly referred to as identity theft. While state law in Texas does not have a specific identity theft statute, there are multiple crimes relating to the unlawful use of another party’s information.
Depending on the amount of money, goods, or services obtained through illegal activities, identity theft can be a felony offense that results in serious consequences. Many of these crimes require prosecutors to prove that alleged offenders knowingly attempted to harm or defraud other people, and criminal intent can be one of the most difficult aspects to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.
Lawyer for Identity Theft Arrests in Fort Worth, TX
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Overview of Identity Theft Crimes in Tarrant County
Identity Theft Charges in Texas
Identity theft in Texas typically applies to one of three crimes. A person can be charged with fraudulent use or possession of identifying information under Texas Penal Code § 32.51 if, with the intent to harm or defraud another, he or she obtains, possesses, transfers, or uses an item of:
- Identifying information of another person without the other person ’s consent;
- Information concerning a deceased natural person, including a stillborn infant or fetus, that would be identifying information of that person were that person alive, if the item of information is obtained, possessed, transferred, or used without legal authorization; or
- Identifying information of a child younger than 18 years of age.
Identifying information for the purposes of this statute is defined as information that alone or in conjunction with other information identifies a person, including a person ’s:
- Name and date of birth;
- Unique biometric data, including the person ’s fingerprint, voice print, or retina or iris image;
- Unique electronic identification number, address, routing code, or financial institution account number;
- Telecommunication identifying information or access device (defined as a card, plate, code, account number, personal identification number, electronic serial number, mobile identification number, or other telecommunications service, equipment, or instrument identifier or means of account access that alone or in conjunction with another telecommunication access device may be used to obtain money, goods, services, or other thing of value, or initiate a transfer of funds other than a transfer originated solely by paper instrument); and
- Social Security number or other government-issued identification number.
Fraudulent use or possession of identifying information offenses are graded depending on the number of items allegedly obtained, possessed, transferred, or used:
- Less than five — State jail felony;
- Five or more, but less than 10 — Third-degree felony;
- 10 or more, but less than 50 — Second-degree felony; or
- 50 or more — First-degree felony.
Additionally, a person may be arrested for false statement to obtain property or credit or in the provision of certain services under Texas Penal Code § 32.32 if the alleged offender intentionally or knowingly makes a materially false or misleading written statement to obtain property or credit, including a mortgage loan, or intentionally or knowingly makes a materially false or misleading written statement in providing an appraisal of real property for compensation. For purposes of this statute, the term “credit” includes:
- A loan of money;
- Furnishing property or service on credit;
- Extending the due date of an obligation;
- Comaking, endorsing, or guaranteeing a note or other instrument for obtaining credit;
- A line or letter of credit;
- A credit card, meaning an identification card, plate, coupon, book, number, or any other device authorizing a designated person or bearer to obtain property or services on credit, including the number or description of the device if the device itself is not produced at the time of ordering or obtaining the property or service; and
- A mortgage loan.
False statement to obtain property or credit or in the provision of certain services offenses are graded according to the value of the property or the amount of credit involved in the alleged offense:
- Less than $100 — Class C misdemeanor;
- $100 or more but less than $750 — Class B misdemeanor;
- $750 or more but less than $2,500 — Class A misdemeanor;
- $2,500 or more but less than $30,000 — State jail felony;
- $30,000 or more but less than $150,000— Third-degree felony;
- $150,000 or more but less than $300,000— Second-degree felony; or
- $300,000 or more — First-degree felony.
An alleged offender can also be charged with unauthorized acquisition or transfer of certain financial information under Texas Penal Code § 31.17 if that person, knowing that he or she is not entitled to obtain or possess that financial information, obtains the financial sight order or payment card information of another by use of an electronic, photographic, visual imaging, recording, or other device capable of accessing, reading, recording, capturing, copying, imaging, scanning, reproducing, or storing in any manner the financial sight order or payment card information. Such offenses are classified as Class B misdemeanors, but it is a Class A misdemeanor if the alleged offender transfers any of the information obtained through the aforementioned means to a third party.
Identity Theft Penalties in Tarrant County
The possible sentence that an alleged offender receives if convicted of one of the crimes listed above depends on how the offense was graded. Depending on the specific classification, a maximum sentence may include:
- Class C Misdemeanor — Fine of up to $500;
- Class B Misdemeanor — Up to 180 days in jail and/or fine of up to $2,000;
- Class A Misdemeanor — Up to one year in jail and/or fine of up to $4,000;
- State Jail Felony — Up to two years in state jail and/or fine of up to $10,000;
- Third-Degree Felony — Up to 10 years in prison and/or fine of up to $10,000;
- Second-Degree Felony — Up to 20 years in prison and/or fine of up to $10,000; or
- First-Degree Felony — Up to 99 years or life in prison and/or fine of up to $10,000.
People who are convicted of fraudulent use or possession of identifying information can also be ordered to pay restitution to their alleged victims, including reimbursement for lost income or other expenses, other than attorney’s fees, incurred as a result of the alleged offense.
Texas Resources for Identity Theft Offenses
Identity Theft | Fort Worth Police Department (FWPD) — Visit this section of the FWPD website to learn how to protect yourself against identity theft. You can also find information about what to do if you have had a credit card, checks, or driver’s license stolen. The website also provides phone numbers for and links to various other resources for specific concerns.
Fort Worth Police Department Forgery/Fraud Unit
350 W. Belknap St.
Fort Worth, TX 76115
Identity Theft | Texas Attorney General — On this section of the attorney general’s website, you can find all kinds of information relating to steps to take if you have been the victim of identity theft. The six steps include: Stop Ongoing Damage, Report ID Theft Crime, Fill out ID Theft Affidavits, Prevent Further ID Theft Abuse, Monitor Your Credit Report, and Declare That You are a Victim. If you click on a step, you will find additional information about phone numbers to call and actions to take.
Townsend, Gebhardt & Eppes, PLLC |
Fort Worth Identity Theft Defense Attorney
If you were arrested or believe that you could be under investigation for an alleged identity theft offense in the DFW area, it will be in your best interest to make sure that you have legal representation before making any kind of statement to authorities. TGE Law will protect your rights and fight to possibly get the criminal charges reduced or dismissed.
Fort Worth criminal defense lawyers aggressively defend individuals in Cleburne, Arlington, Weatherford, Fort Worth, and many surrounding areas of Tarrant County, Parker County, and Johnson County. Call (817) 502-3600 or submit an online form to have our attorneys provide a complete evaluation of your case during a free initial consultation.