Identity theft is a crime everyone has heard of, but few people know that the activities commonly called by that name include a wide array of offenses. One of the most commonly charged forms of identify theft is false impersonation. If you have been accused of this crime or any other form of identity theft, call a Del Mar defense lawyer as soon as possible.
What is False Impersonation in California?
On its face, false impersonation seems fairly straight forward and you’d be right if you assumed it involves pretending to be someone else. But the crime itself is not so simple. In fact, in order to be guilty, you must do something that will either benefit you in some way or could cause the person you are impersonating to be sued, face criminal charges or owe money. In other words, by impersonating the other party, you’re either helping yourself by using their name and/or likeness or hurting them by doing so.
For example, if you are arrested for drunk driving and give the police someone else’s driver’s license and personal information so that person is charged with a DUI rather than you, you have committed false impersonation. Alternatively, if you claim to be a famous celebrity that people say you resemble in order to get free meals or hotel stays in exchange for a mention on Instagram, you would be guilty. On the other hand, if you go to a party and feel uncomfortable because you don’t know anyone, so you pretend to be your outgoing college roommate to feel more comfortable, you haven’t done anything wrong from a legal perspective.
As you might imagine, the most common case of false identity is using someone else’s credit or debit card to make purchases. The credit card companies cover most fraudulent purchases so stores and restaurants have little incentive to adequately check identities.
False Impersonation Penalties
If you are charged with false impersonation, you can face either misdemeanor of felony charges. The maximum sentence for a misdemeanor is one year in jail, whereas the maximum sentence for a felony is a sentence of up to 3 years in jail. In many cases, a Carmel Valley white collar crimes attorney can negotiate a plea bargain to have felony charges reduced to a misdemeanor.
While the false impersonation laws generally apply only to in-person encounters, it is also illegal to knowingly impersonate someone online in a credible manner without their consent for the purposes of intimidating, threatening, defrauding or otherwise harming them. This charge is always a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail.
Fighting the Charges
Aside from negotiating a plea bargain, your Mira Mesa criminal lawyer may be able to help you fight the charges entirely. This could be through a number of methods, but one of the most successful defenses for this crime is to prove that you did not benefit from the act or harm the alleged victim. Alternatively, you might actually be wrongly identified as the offender or be the victim of false allegations. Unfortunately, attempting to mount such a defense on your own could actually hurt your case in many situations, so it is important to refuse to speak with police or prosecutors without your lawyer present.
If you have been accused of falsely impersonating someone else, please call (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024 to schedule a free initial consultation with top Solana Beach fraud defense attorney Peter M. Liss.
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