Legal Defenses in Identity Theft Cases

Is scamming illegal under New Jersey law? It is when it falls under the definition of identity theft. New Jersey’s identity theft law covers a range of actions in which someone falsely purports to be another person in order to obtain benefits or avoid legal responsibilities. In this article, we review the key points outlined in the law.

How Does New Jersey Define Identity Theft?

Under New Jersey law, identity theft includes:

  • Impersonating someone else or assuming a false identity to gain benefits or harm another
  • Claiming to represent someone else or an organization to obtain benefits or defraud someone
  • Using someone else’s personal information without permission to assume their identity for fraudulent gains or services, or to avoid debts and legal consequences
  • Making false statements about one’s identity to avoid paying for services previously received

Consequences of Identity Theft Crimes in New Jersey

The consequences of identity theft and identity fraud vary depending on the nature of the fraudulent activity. Here’s an overview of the charges under New Jersey identity theft laws:

  • If the fraud involves less than $500 or affects one victim, it’s considered a fourth-degree crime. A repeat offense of this nature upgrades to a third-degree crime.
  • Fraud involving at least $500 but less than $75,000 or affecting two to four victims is a third-degree crime.
  • If the fraud involves $75,000 or more or affects five or more victims, it’s a second-degree crime.
  • There is an exception: using someone else’s identity for minor benefits, like purchasing alcohol or tobacco products underage, doesn’t fall under this identity theft law.

In addition to the standard fines and jail time accompanying these offenses, the sentencing court has the authority to correct any public records containing false information due to identity theft. It can also order convicted offenders to pay restitution to the victims.

These harsh consequences of an identity theft conviction underscore the importance of a strong legal defense when facing identity theft charges in New Jersey. But some legal defenses may apply in identity theft cases, including the following.

Mistaken Identity

This defense argues that the person accusing you of identity theft has mistakenly singled out the wrong person. This type of mistake could arise due to incorrect eyewitness accounts, mistakes from law enforcement, misinterpreted evidence, or even flawed digital data. 

To build this defense, your lawyer will meticulously review evidence like surveillance footage, bank statements, and online logs that could prove you were not involved in the criminal activity. They might also present evidence of your whereabouts at the time of the crime — such as credit card receipts, GPS data, or witness statements — to establish an alibi. 

The goal of this defense hinges on creating reasonable doubt about your involvement, emphasizing discrepancies in the accuser’s identification process or the reliability of the evidence against you.

Lack of Intent

The defense of lack of intent focuses on your mindset at the time the alleged crime took place. Under New Jersey law, committing identity theft requires intentional deception or harm. To use this strategy in your defense, your lawyer would argue that you did not purposefully deceive anyone and, therefore, lacked this criminal intent. 

For instance, perhaps you used someone’s personal information without meaning to do so or believed you had implicit consent to use their information. Your lawyer might bring forward evidence of your character, past interactions, and specific circumstances surrounding the incident to demonstrate that any actions you took were without malicious intent. 

This defense is all about proving that your actions, though possibly misguided, were not driven by the intent to defraud or harm another person.

Authorization or Consent

Claiming authorization or consent as a defense strategy means arguing that you had explicit permission to use the other person’s identity or information. If your lawyer uses this strategy to defend you, they will work to show that any actions you took were with the other party’s full knowledge and approval. 

Documentation of this permission in the form of written agreements, emails, text messages, or even witness testimony can provide pivotal evidence for this defense strategy. This type of defense is based on establishing a clear, consensual understanding between you and the person whose information was used, challenging the notion of theft since the use was authorized.


A duress defense involves showing that you were coerced into committing identity theft under the threat of harm to yourself or someone you care about. This strategy requires your lawyer to demonstrate the presence of an immediate threat or pressure that left you with no reasonable alternative but to comply. 

Evidence to suppose this defense might include communications revealing the threats, testimony about the coercer’s ability to carry out their threats, or any relevant information that establishes a coercive relationship between you and the person who threatened you. It’s a specific defense strategy that seeks to explain your actions and evoke empathy in the jury, highlighting the extreme circumstances that led to the alleged criminal behavior.

Insufficient Evidence

Asserting an insufficient evidence defense involves challenging the prosecution’s case head-on, questioning the strength, reliability, and completeness of the evidence against you. To employ this defense strategy, your lawyer would meticulously analyze the prosecution’s arguments to identify and call attention to gaps, inconsistencies, and weaknesses. 

If its evidence is flimsy, your defense attorney might argue that the prosecution has failed to meet the burden of proof required for a conviction. This could involve highlighting the lack of direct evidence linking you to the crime, questioning the credibility of witnesses, or demonstrating that circumstantial evidence does not conclusively point to you as the perpetrator. The essence of this defense involves casting doubt on the prosecution’s case to show that there’s a reasonable possibility of your innocence.

Contact an Identity Theft Defense Lawyer Now

If you’re facing identity theft charges in New Jersey and need help, reach out to Keith Oliver Law today for a free initial consultation. Our team is ready to listen to your story, explain your options, and build a strong defense based on the specific facts of your case. Don’t go through this alone. Contact us now to start protecting your legal rights.