Navigating the Complexities of Identity Fraud Involving Juveniles

Rates of identity fraud have increased in recent years as people move more of their lives online. What is identity fraud? Identity fraud occurs when a person assumes someone else’s identity or adopts a false identity to obtain a benefit or service, injure or defraud someone, or avoid legal liability or criminal prosecution. Identity fraud comes in many forms, such as financial identity fraud and government benefits fraud.

Was Your Child Accused of Identity Fraud?

Although people may perceive identity fraud as a crime committed by adults, the technological sophistication of many juveniles means young people can also commit identity fraud. Unfortunately, juveniles may engage in identity fraud over the Internet without considering the harm they inflict or the potential consequences they may face if caught by the authorities.

If your child has been arrested and charged with identity fraud, your family should immediately contact a criminal defense attorney to discuss your child’s legal options. Contact Keith Oliver Criminal Law today for a free, no-obligation case review. Learn how our firm can help your family resolve your child’s identity fraud charges.

Understanding Identity Fraud

In New Jersey, the law prohibits identity fraud under the impersonation/theft of identity criminal statute. The statute makes it a crime for a person to engage in several actions by any means, including the use of electronic communications or the Internet:

  • Impersonating another person or assuming a false identity to commit an act intended to benefit themselves or another or to injure or default another person
  • Claiming to represent a person or organization and acting in that pretend capacity to obtain a benefit for themselves or another or to injure or defraud another person
  • Impersonating another person, assuming a false identity, or making a false or misleading statement regarding a person’s identity in an application for services
  • Obtaining another person’s personally identifiable information and using that information to assume a person’s identity without their authorization to obtain benefits or services fraudulently, avoid the payment of debt or legal obligations, or avoid criminal prosecution
  • Impersonating another person, assuming a false identity, or making a false or misleading statement in an application for services or benefits to avoid payment for prior services

Offenders may also engage in a type of identity fraud known as synthetic identity fraud. What is synthetic identity fraud? It is a form of identity theft that involves taking a real person’s personally identifiable information and combining it with false personal information to create a new identity.

Legal Consequences for Juvenile Identity Fraud in NJ 

Legal consequences for identity fraud committed by juveniles will depend on whether they face prosecution in family court or adult criminal court. By default, juveniles who commit identity fraud will face delinquency adjudication proceedings in family court. However, for juveniles 14 and older, the state can file an application to waive the juvenile to adult criminal court.

In family court, a juvenile adjudicated delinquent for acts that constitute identity theft may face various legal consequences. However, penalties in juvenile delinquency cases focus on treatment and rehabilitation, not punishment. The New Jersey Juvenile Justice Commission will assign a delinquent juvenile a custody level and treatment program based on the juvenile’s treatment needs and supervision requirements. The Commission may place juveniles in an institutional setting or devise a structured non-institutional placement.

Juveniles waived to adult criminal court will face prosecution for identity fraud as an adult and face adult penalties. Is identity fraud a felony? The answer is yes. A conviction on an identity fraud charge carries penalties that vary based on the value of loss and the number of victims involved:

  • Loss of less than $500 and only one victim: Fourth-degree crime for a first offense with a penalty of up to 18 months imprisonment, or third-degree crime for a second or subsequent offense with a penalty of three to five years imprisonment
  • Loss of more than $500 but less than $75,000 or the offense involves at least two but less than five victims: Third-degree crime carrying a penalty of three to five years imprisonment
  • Loss of $75,000 or more or the offense involves five or more victims: Second-degree crime with a penalty of five to ten years imprisonment

Role of Parents in Defending Their Children

Facing an arrest for identity fraud can seem scary and overwhelming to a juvenile. Parents play a significant role in protecting their children in an identity fraud prosecution or delinquency adjudication. Parents can serve as a liaison between their child and the child’s criminal defense attorney, helping them understand the attorney’s advice and strategy and collaborating with their child on decisions to resolve their case.

Parents should ensure their juvenile understands the immediate and long-term consequences they may have in family court or adult criminal court, including preparing their child for the collateral consequences that a delinquency adjudication or conviction can have. Juveniles must understand that their charges may negatively affect their educational and employment opportunities.

Parents can help their children by demonstrating to the court that they can serve a crucial role in their children’s rehabilitation. Courts may decide to release a juvenile to their parent’s custody and supervision as part of a structured placement.

Coping with Identity Fraud Charges

When your child faces identity fraud charges, parents must serve as a rock of emotional and legal support for their child during family or adult criminal court proceedings. An experienced criminal defense attorney can explain a child’s charges, potential defenses, and possible outcomes or penalties from a delinquency adjudication or conviction. With that information, parents can help their children cope with identity fraud charges.

Legal Defense Strategies

Depending on the facts and circumstances, a juvenile may have potential defenses against an identity fraud charge, such as:

  • Lack of intent to steal someone else’s identity or to assume a false identity
  • Lack of intent to obtain a benefit or service, defraud another party, or avoid civil or criminal liability
  • Consent to use the other person’s identity
  • Unlawful search and seizure of electronic devices or online account information
  • Unlawful police questioning that led to inculpatory admissions by a juvenile, including questioning a juvenile outside the presence of a parent/guardian or legal counsel

Contact Our Criminal Defense Attorneys Today

After your child has been detained or charged with identity theft in New Jersey, get experienced legal representation to protect their rights, interests, and future. Contact Keith Oliver Criminal Law today for a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your child’s legal options with our identity fraud lawyers.

Author: Keith G. Oliver

Founding partner Keith G. Oliver has a passion for helping people who are caught up in the criminal justice system. He believes that everyone has a right to be presumed innocent, and that one mistake shouldn’t define a person forever. This passion drives Mr. Oliver to tirelessly fight for his clients and pursue the best possible outcome in every case.