OBTAINING AND USING PERSONAL IDENTIFICATION INFORMATION OF ANOTHER
In Las Vegas and throughout Nevada, using the personal identifying information of another person for an illegal purpose is a serious crime that carries a very harsh potential punishment, including prison time. Furthermore, this is a very broad law, and applies to many different situations. Obviously, it covers situations where a person steals someone else's identification for the purposes of identity theft, but it may also apply to situations where a person simply gives a false name to a police officer when she is being arrested—even if the charges she's being arrested for are relatively minor. Read below to learn about the crime of using the identification of another, and how a criminal defense attorney can help you if you have been arrested for this offense.
PERSONAL IDENTIFYING INFORMATION DEFINED
To understand the crime of obtaining and using the personal identifying information of another, you must first understand how "personal identifying information" is defined in Nevada. According to NRS 205.4617(1), "personal identifying information" is defined as any information commonly used to identify any person. This is a very general definition. However subsections (a) through (h) of this same statute lists several items which always constituted "personal identifying information." These include the following:
- Current or former name;
- Driver's license number;
- Social security number;
- Bank account numbers;
- Credit card numbers;
- Date of birth;
- Place of employment;
- Fingerprints or other identifying "biometric data";
- Electronic signature;
- PIN number;
- Any ID numbers used for employment, insurance, or government services;
- Professional license numbers.
Note that these are just examples of some things which constitute "personal identifying information." The general definition includes any information which, "alone or in conjunction with any other information," can identify some other person. Also, according to NRS 205.4617(2), "personal identifying information" may refer to an "artificial" person's identifying information. In other words, fictitious, or made up identities, are covered under this criminal statute.
USING IDENTIFYING INFORMATION FOR AN ILLEGAL PURPOSE
NRS 205.463 makes it illegal for someone to obtain and use the personal identifying information of another person for any "unlawful purpose." But what constitutes an unlawful purpose? Broadly, there are two general types of cases where people are charged with the crime of using personal identifying information. The first type is identity theft. The second is delaying prosecution.
Identity theft is considered the more serious offense of the two. According to NRS 205.463(1), identity theft includes any situation where someone obtains and uses someone's personal identifying information for any of the following purposes:
- To intentionally harm the person;
- To represent or impersonate the person to access private information;
- To obtain access to private records or communications;
- To obtain credit.
Identity theft is considered a very serious felony offense and is often punished very harshly, depending on the specific facts of the case and the extent of the damage, if any, to the alleged victim. Read the next section to learn about the potential punishment for an identity theft conviction.
Delay of prosecution is also a serious offense, but it is less serious than identity theft. According to NRS 205.463(2), if someone obtains and uses another person's identifying information to attempt to avoid or delay prosecution for a crime, that person is guilty of the same offense as a person who has committed identity theft—although as you will read below, the potential punishment is less severe. Delay of prosecution offenses often arise when someone is being arrested, and gives a false name, date of birth, and/or social security number. Many times, people who get arrested give the names of friends or relatives, not understanding that this is considered a felony crime. The type of case this fact pattern is most often seen in is soliciting prostitution cases. Recently, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has been referring many cases that follow this pattern to the Clark County District Attorney for prosecution. Often, accused prostitutes believe that they may only be charged with misdemeanor obstruction for giving a false name, and are surprised to find that they have been booked into Clark County Detention center for this serious felony charge.
The potential punishment for obtaining the personal identifying information for an illegal purpose depends on the facts. As stated above, there are two distinct types of this crime: identity theft and
delay of prosecution.
Identity theft is ordinarily a category B felony, punishable by 1 to 20 years in a Nevada prison. Under Nevada sentencing laws, the judge must impose a sentence consisting of two numbers: a top number representing the maximum time that the defendant can serve, and a bottom number that is no greater than 40% of the top number, representing the minimum time to be served before the defendant becomes eligible for release on parole. So for the offense of identity theft, the minimum sentence is 1 to 2.5 years. If the judge chose to impose this sentence, the convicted defendant would serve a minimum of 12 months before he would become eligible for parole. The maximum sentence would be 8 to 20 years. The judge does not have to impose prison time; the judge may instead choose to suspend the prison sentence and place the defendant on a period of probation of up to 5 years.
Delay of prosecution is ordinarily a category C felony, punishable by 1 to 5 years in a Nevada prison. Again, this is a probationable offense, meaning that the judge can suspend any prison sentence and place the defendant on probation. Practically speaking, a person is much more likely to receive probation for delay of prosecution than for identity theft.
Please note, although the above punishments are very harsh, the potential punishment for obtaining and using personal identifying information may be enhanced further if certain aggravating factors are present. Read about these below.
SPECIAL SENTENCING ENHANCEMENTS
As stated above, the potential punishment for this crime (including either variety) may be greater than those listed above if any one of several aggravating factors, listed by statute, is proven by the prosecutor. Specifically, pursuant to NRS 205.463(3), the potential punishment (for either variety of this crime) is enhanced to 3 to 20 years and carries a fine of $100,000 if any of the following are proven:
- The victim is older than 65 or is an otherwise "vulnerable person";
- The accused uses the personal identifying information of at least 5 people;
- The victim suffers a financial loss of at least $3,000;
- The accused person tries to avoid or delay prosecution for a category A felony or identity theft.
The first three of these potential enhancements apply to either variety of this crime (identity theft or delay of prosecution). The fourth only applies to delay of prosecution.
DEFENDING USE OF PERSONAL IDENTIFICATION CASES
If you have been arrested for obtaining and using personal identifying information for an illegal purpose, you should contact a criminal defense attorney to discuss your case. As outlined above, this is a serious crime that carries harsh consequences if you are convicted. As a defendant in a criminal case, you must always remember that the prosecution has a very high burden of proof. That is, for you to be convicted and sent to prison for this offense or any other, you must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
A criminal defense attorney will know how to best respond to these charges, whether that means obtaining a favorable plea negotiation or taking the case all the way to trial. You must also remember that even when the evidence against the accused is strong, a defense attorney may negotiate with the prosecutor to obtain a plea deal that avoids harsh penalties such as felony conviction or incarceration.
I have helped many people accused of this crime in Las Vegas and throughout Southern Nevada. If you have been arrested and charged with the crime of using someone else's personal identifying information, call me today to discuss your case. Tell me the circumstances of how you were arrested, and we can begin to form our defense strategy. Consultations are always free.
By Michael Pandullo