If you face identity theft criminal charges in New Jersey, you may wonder, is identity theft a felony? Depending on the specifics of a case, identity theft is an indictable offense in New Jersey – similar to a felony in other states. That means a conviction carries stiff penalties.
An experienced criminal defense attorney from Keith Oliver Criminal Law can help you fight identity theft charges. We are ready to negotiate to have them reduced or dismissed, and protect you from the harshest penalties.
Contact us now for a free consultation about your legal rights. It’s totally confidential and comes without further obligations on your part.
Overview of New Jersey Identity Theft Laws
New Jersey law has various definitions of identity theft. Identity theft in New Jersey includes:
- Impersonating another person or assuming a false identity intending to obtain a benefit or injure or defraud another person
- Pretending to be a representative of a person or organization to obtain a benefit
- Making false or misleading statements regarding a person’s identity either orally or in writing to obtain services
- Obtaining personal identifying information about another person and using it to assume that person’s identity to gain benefits and services or avoid debts or other legal obligations
- Impersonating another person, assuming a false identity, or making misleading statements to avoid paying for prior services
Common identity theft crimes include:
- False application for a credit card
- Fraudulent withdrawal from someone else’s bank account
- Fraudulent use of online accounts
- Fraudulent use of someone’s Social Security number or driver’s license number
7 Categories of Identity Theft Penalties in New Jersey
Is identity theft a felony or misdemeanor? It may depend on the specifics of the crime. Identity theft is usually an indictable offense under New Jersey law, similar to a felony in other states. Identity theft may also be a felony under federal law, namely the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998. A conviction under state and federal laws carries several penalties, including the following penalties for identity theft:
1. Financial Fines and Restitution
The court can order a person convicted of identity theft to pay fines and pay restitution to the victim to compensate them for financial harm. Fines for identity theft depend on the amount stolen, the number of victims, and whether it is a first-time offense. Under New Jersey law, fines are as follows:
- Fines up to $10,000 for amounts less than $500, one victim, and first offense
- Fines of up to $15,000 for amounts more than $500 but less than $75,000 or two to four victims
- Fines up to $150,000 for amounts of $75,000 or greater or involving five or more victims
2. Probation Terms
Probation may be a penalty for identity theft convictions. Offenders must follow the rules, including regular check-ins with a probation officer, maintaining employment, and avoiding further criminal activities. Failure to follow these terms can lead to more severe consequences and imprisonment.
Jail time for identity theft is a real possibility. You may wonder, when is identity theft considered a felony? In New Jersey, it is almost always an indictable crime, meaning the penalties can include incarceration. The length of the sentence depends on factors such as the scale of the crime, the extent of financial loss to victims, and the presence of any prior criminal record. Typical penalties are as follows:
- Up to 18 months in prison for a fourth-degree crime
- 3 to 5 years in prison for a third-degree crime
- 5 to 10 years in prison for a second-degree crime
4. Community Service
Community service is another potential penalty for an identity theft conviction. Community service might follow identity theft jail time or be part of a pretrial diversion program if it is a first-time offense.
Community service is a form of restitution to society. Not only does this penalty aim to repair the social fabric disrupted by the crime, but it also provides a chance for the offender to demonstrate genuine remorse and commitment to positive change.
5. Mandatory Counseling or Rehabilitation Programs
Some perpetrators of identity theft may have psychological issues that contribute to their criminal behavior. Mandatory counseling may include sessions with mental health professionals who can assess and guide the individual’s emotional well-being. Additionally, rehabilitation programs may involve educational components to raise awareness about the consequences of identity theft, promoting empathy and understanding of the impact on victims.
Fulfilling these counseling or rehabilitation requirements can encourage an offender to undergo personal growth and address the factors that led to their involvement in identity theft.
6. Loss of Certain Rights or Privileges
A criminal conviction may lead to the loss of specific rights or privileges. For instance, a person convicted of identity theft may lose their right to vote or own a firearm. Furthermore, it can prevent them from obtaining a mortgage or securing a loan. Individuals who are not U.S. citizens could face deportation.
7. Impact on Future Employment and Opportunities
A conviction for identity theft can significantly reduce a person’s professional and educational opportunities. Many employers conduct background checks, and a criminal record that includes an identity theft conviction could be an automatic disqualification for specific jobs.
Can I Appeal a Conviction?
The Appellate Division of New Jersey’s Superior Court handles appeals. To appeal a conviction, you must have a valid argument. Generally, grounds for appeal are:
- Ineffective assistance of counsel during the trial
- Evidence of legal errors
- Discovery of new evidence not available for the first trial
Navigating the Aftermath
It is possible to seek expungement of an indictable crime like identity theft and have civil rights, such as voting rights, restored. However, there is typically a five-year waiting period before a person convicted of identity theft can seek expungement. In the meantime, a conviction can impact a person financially, professionally, and socially.
Court-ordered restitution and fines can be a financial burden, and a criminal record for committing identity theft can limit job opportunities, compounding financial stress. Individuals convicted of identity theft may also face social stigma and lose standing in the community.
Contact Our Criminal Defense Attorney to Learn More
If you face identity theft charges, you need an experienced, proactive criminal defense attorney to protect your rights and future. At Keith Oliver Criminal Law, our criminal defense attorneys help clients with various identity theft crimes fight the charges and move forward with their life without enduring harsh penalties. We are prepared to work tirelessly to have your charges reduced or dismissed and achieve the best outcome in your case.
Let an experienced criminal defense attorney familiar with complex identity theft cases help you. Contact Keith Oliver Criminal Law for a free and confidential consultation with one of our criminal defense attorneys in New Jersey.