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Identity Theft Attorney in Phoenix, AZ

While identity theft has existed for many years, the internet and modern technology has increased its frequency and scope. Identity theft is a serious charge, and Arizona ranks high among all the states in per capita identity theft complaints. If you have been arrested for taking another person’s identity, or for any related offense, call the attorneys at Castañeda Law today. They will listen to your story, review the evidence, and explain your options in clear and understandable language. Contact us today for a free consultation.

What is the Definition of “Identity Theft” in Arizona?

Identity theft is defined in A.R.S. 13-2008. That section states that you commit identity theft when you deal with another person’s “personal identifying information” without consent, intending to use that information for an unlawful purpose. Personal identifying information, in turn, means any document or electronic data that provides the name, address, telephone number, signature, email signature, driver’s license number, social security number, student or military i.d., citizenship status, date of birth, credit card number, financial account number, genetic information, mother’s maiden name, fingerprint or retinal image.

Dealing with another person’s personal identifying information can take various forms. It includes taking, purchasing, manufacturing, recording, possessing, selling or using that information. The statute contains only one exception. It does not apply to a minor (under 21) who uses a fake i.d. to purchase liquor.

Identity theft can be accomplished in a number of different ways, including the use of malware, phishing scams (posing as a legitimate website), and others.

What are the Penalties for Identity Theft?

The classification and potential penalty for identity theft depends, in part, on the scope of the identity theft, that is, whether multiple instances of the offense were allegedly committed, as well as whether you are accused of trafficking in the identity of a person. Here are the various identity theft crimes in Arizona:

  • Identity theft, without more, is a class 4 felony. For a first time offender, this carries a presumptive sentence of 2.5 years in prison.

  • Aggravated identity theft. If you are accused of (1) identity theft involving three or more persons, (2) identity theft that causes a loss of $1,000 or more to another person or entity, or (3) identity theft in order to obtain employment, you can be charged with aggravated identity theft. This is a class 3 felony with a presumptive sentence of 3.5 years.

  • Trafficking in the identity of another person. If you sell, transfer or transmit personal identifying information of another person or another entity without permission and for an unlawful purpose. It is a class 2 felony and carries a presumptive sentence of 5 years.

As with many other felonies, the sentence may be subject to enhancement or mitigation, based upon your prior criminal history and other facts.

Employment-Related Identity Theft in Arizona

One of the variations on aggravated identity theft involves the use of false documents to obtain employment. It was added to the original version of the identity theft law in 2007, and was clearly aimed at immigrants seeking work in the United States. The law was challenged on constitutional grounds, the plaintiffs contending that it was preempted by federal immigration law. While an injunction was issued by the Federal District Court against enforcement of the law, that injunction was recently vacated by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Not surprisingly, most of those arrested under this section have been “unauthorized aliens.”

Defending an Identity Theft Case in Arizona

The evidence in many identity theft cases consists of computer-related information. This is particularly true with claims that you engaged in setting up a fake website or other phishing scams, or that you installed malware on a server or network. In other cases, the evidence may include a driver’s license, social security card or other document containing personal identifying information. How the information was obtained by the police (search and seizure), and how you were targeted as the recipient, manufacturer or user of the information, are all subject to challenge. Consent by the person whose identity was allegedly taken is likewise a defense to an identity theft charge.

In addition, identity theft is a specific intent crime. The state must prove that you knowingly took the information, without consent, intending to use it unlawfully. Absent the requisite intent, there is no crime.

Whether you have been accused of participating in a phishing scam, stealing credit card information, or attempting to get a job using a false identity, we can help. Our attorneys understand that you are innocent until proven guilty, and that you are entitled to a vigorous defense. Contact Castañeda Law to learn how we can protect your rights.

Call us at (602) 251-3132 for a free consultation

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