Identity Theft

What is Identity Theft?

The crime of identity theft falls under the category of "theft." According to RCW §9.35.020, identity theft is defined as knowingly obtaining, possessing, using, or transferring a means of identification or financial information of another person, living or dead, with the intent to commit, or to aid or abet, any crime.

A few examples of the types of identification or financial information that are commonly involved in identity theft offenses include names, addresses, driver's license information, Social Security numbers, credit card numbers and photos.

There are two types of identity theft in Washington State categorized by the amount of financial harm caused: identity theft in the first degree and identity theft in the second degree.

Identity Theft in the First Degree:

A person commits identity theft in the first degree if he commits identity theft and obtains credit, money, goods, services, or anything else of value in excess of $1,500 in value.

Penalties for Identity Theft in the First Degree in Washington:

Identity theft in the first degree is considered a class B felony, which RCW §9A.20.021 defines as punishable by up to ten years in prison, a maximum fine of $20,000, or both.

Identity Theft in the Second Degree:

A person commits identity theft in the second degree if he commits identity theft under circumstances not amounting to identity theft in the first degree (involving a loss amounting to $1,500 or less). In other words, any act of identity theft by which the offender obtains credit, money, goods, services, or anything else of value less than or equal to $1,500 in value.

Penalties for Identity Theft in the Second Degree in Washington:

Identity theft in the second degree is considered a class C felony, which RCW §9A.20.021 defines as punishable by up to five years in prison, a maximum fine of $10,000, or both.

Other Penalties for Identity Theft in Washington:

It is important to note that, according to RCW §9.35.020, a person convicted of identity theft may also be required to pay civil damages in the amount of $1,000 or in the amount of actual loss, whichever is greater, including costs to repair the victim's credit record, and reasonable attorneys' fees as determined by the court.

Defending an Identity Theft Charge:

It might be possible to show that you did not realize you possessed someone else's personal information, that you obtained the information without criminal intent, or that you were wrongfully accused and never actually had the information in the first place. Your defense strategy is crucial, and the help of a skilled criminal defense attorney is strongly advised.