Generally defined, identity theft occurs when you either assume someone else's identity or use their personal identifying information without their permission and with the intent to defraud. New York law states that this is an offense when such action results in your obtaining goods, services, property, or money, or when you're committing a separate crime.
Identity theft is taken seriously, and it comes with harsh penalties. In New York, there are three degrees of this crime, in addition to aggravated identity theft. Depending on the circumstances, the offense can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor.
Several factors determine what degree of offense you may be accused of and what level of charge you'll face. These include:
- The value of the goods or services you obtained through your deception;
- The amount of financial loss you cause to anyone affected by the identity theft;
- The type of offense you committed while assuming another person's identity; or
- Whether you are a repeat offender
When Is Identity Theft a Misdemeanor?
As mentioned earlier, there's only one instance of when you may be charged with misdemeanor identity theft. This happens when you knowingly present yourself as another person and you obtain something of value, cause a financial loss, or commit a class A misdemeanor or more serious crime.
This offense is referred to as identity theft in the third degree. It is a class A misdemeanor, which carries penalties of up to 364 days in jail.
When Is Identity Theft a Felony?
In situations besides those considered third-degree identity theft, the offense is a felony. The classification of felony you may be charged with depends on the specifics.
For instance, you may face a class E felony if you commit identity theft in the second degree. Similar to third-degree identity theft, this offense occurs when you use someone else's information for your own benefit or another's detriment.
The aggregate total of the goods or services you received or the amount of loss you cause is one of the things that differentiates these two degrees of identity theft. To be accused of this offense, you must have obtained something valued at more than $500 or caused a loss in that amount.
Another thing that differentiates third- and second-degree identity theft is the crime committed while assuming another person's identity or using their personal identifying information. Whereas third-degree identity theft is charged when a class A or higher misdemeanor is committed, second-degree is charged when you commit, attempt to commit, or are an accessory to a felony. You may also face charges, within the last 5 years, you were previously convicted of third-degree identity theft.
Second-degree identity theft is punishable by up to 4 years in prison.
The most serious identity theft offenses are charged as class D felonies. The first of such crimes is identity theft in the first degree. Again, what differentiates this degree from the previous two is the value of the goods, services, or property obtained or the loss caused. For an offense to be considered first-degree identity theft, you must have obtained something or caused a loss of over $2,000.
You could also be accused of this crime if you committed, attempted to commit, or were an accessory to a class D felony while assuming someone else's identity. Additionally, this charge may be levied if you committed second-degree identity theft and you were previously convicted of third-degree identity theft in the last 5 years.
The second instance of when identity theft is a class D felony is when the offense involves the taking of the identity of a member of the armed services who is deployed out of the country. This is referred to as aggravated identity theft.
In New York, class D felonies are punishable by up to 7 years in prison.