In Ohio, identity theft is regarded as a very serious crime, and one that might result in some hefty fines and several years of prison time. In the age of social media an online technology, the crime of identity theft is becoming increasingly common, particularly from a cyber perspective.
Identity theft happens when a perpetrator uses another person’s identity usually through the social security number, or birth date of that person, to open fraudulent accounts. There are many ways to get the information required to commit identity theft in Ohio, from digging through trash to far more high-tech methods.
Ohio laws for identity theft characterize the crime as a felony, which means that it is punishable by up to eleven years in prison, but the penalties can change according to specific factors. For instance, more serious charges are reserved for people who target the disabled and/or the elderly.
Laws and Penalties
As mentioned above, identity fraud is a felony offense in Ohio, and according to the specifics of the crime, an identity fraud conviction can be anything from a fifth-degree, to a first-degree offense. As with many other crimes, the first degree felonies are by far the most serious, while the fifth degree felonies are the least serious. Penalties may include:
- For a fifth degree identity theft felony, someone in Ohio may face up to 12 months in prison, alongside a fine of up to $2,500. Identity fraud that has no impact on the defrauded individual in terms of a financial loss is regarded as a fifth-degree felony.
- Fourth degree felonies of identity theft are punishable in Ohio by up to 18 months in prison, and the potential for up to $5,000 in fines. If the identity fraud in question resulted in a victim suffering a financial loss that was less than $7,500 in value, then this will be classed as a fourth-degree felony offense.
- A third degree offense of identity theft in Ohio is required for situations wherein the victims of the fraud lost between $7,500 and $150,000 in terms of financial damages. However, it is important to note that if a person loses less than $7,500, but is an elderly person, a disabled person, or an active military individual, then the crime will still be classed as a third-degree felony, chargeable with up to five years in prison, and $10,000 in fines.
- If a felony of identity theft resulted in over $150,000 in losses to victims, the crime will be a second-degree felony. This degree also applies when the identity theft value is less than $150,000, but the person in question was elderly or disabled. A second-degree felony is punishable by up to 8 years in prison, and $15,000 in fines.
- Finally, if the victim lost more than $150,000 in finances, and is classed as a disabled or elderly person, then the identity theft will be classed as a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 11 years in prison, and $20,000 in fines.
Identity Theft Defenses
Defense options for protecting a defendant against the charge of identity theft can be complicated but they are often very similar to the defense solutions used in other fraud cases. For example, the most common defense is lack of intent.
Lack of intent suggests that the person responsible for the identity fraud took information without any intention to actually commit a crime. On the other hand, in cases of identity theft in Ohio, it is also possible to argue a lack of intent if the accused claim that they believed they had permission or a right to use the personal information that they accessed.
Lack of knowledge or mistake is also a possible defense against the conviction of identity theft. For example, if the accused accidentally used someone else’s card to pay for an item after picking it up and thinking it was theirs, then they cannot be charged with identity theft. Obviously, this is not the case in chip and pin situations wherein the person has to use another person’s details, but it can be applicable to instances of contactless payment.
Statute of Limitations
The Ohio revised code section 2901.13 dictates that all general statutes of limitations for felonies within the state currently stand at twenty years. However, it’s important to note that the same statute also suggests that prosecutions for identity theft can also take place after the twenty-year period has expired, so long as the time is within five years of the offense being discovered. Because of these guidelines, identity theft has an almost indefinite statute of limitations in Ohio.
Ohio Identity Theft Cases
- Seven arrested in Westlake for credit card theft and identity theft
- Couple in Hermitage charged for stealing credit card information
- Clarksville police arrest two women for credit card fraud
- Ohio woman and Georgia man charged with stealing identities
- Pepper Pike woman gets 7 years for tax fraud and identity thef