Will I have to go to jail for committing identity theft? 31 Answers as of January 27, 2012

I used my daughters SSN# to open credit cards and utility accts. I hurt her credit and she wants it fixed but doesn’t want to send me to jail. I’m willing to take full responsibility and pay all the money back. Can her credit be fixed without her contacting the police? If she needs to contact the police will I be able avoid jail time? I made poor decisions and regret doing so and want to help make it right.

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Andersen Law PLLC
Andersen Law PLLC | Craig Andersen
That depends on any other criminal history and any other felony charges.
Answer Applies to: Washington
Replied: 1/27/2012
Edward  D. Dowling IV Attorney at Law
Edward D. Dowling IV Attorney at Law | Edward D. Dowling IV
Your daughter does not have to go to the police to get her credit fixed, but if she does press criminal charges you will need an attorney as jail would be a possibility.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 5/12/2011
Craig W. Elhart, P.C.
Craig W. Elhart, P.C. | Craig Elhart
If prompt and proper restitution is made, it may be possible for the creditor to make changes on her credit report without going to the police first. If the police are involved, whether any charges are filed is up to the prosecuting attorney or U.S. Attorney. If charges are filed, whether, upon conviction, you would serve any jail time depends on the charges filed and what you might be found guilty of. For further information, contact us.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 5/11/2011
Palumbo and Kosofsky
Palumbo and Kosofsky | Michael Palumbo
The charge is a felony so that is a possibility. It is a crime to use your daughters SSN# to open credit cards and utility accts. You need a credit specialist to fix your credit, not a lawyer. The charge is a felony so that is a possibility.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 5/9/2011
Reeves Law Firm, P.C.
Reeves Law Firm, P.C. | Roy L. Reeves
The only way to "fix" her credit is to file a fraud claim on the credit bureaus. This starts a process and it may or may not result in criminal charges. That said, she can contest the matters, it is expensive, but if you pay off the debts, so that the creditors are not at loss, your daughter can then file complaints that the credit is not hers, there is not security agreements with her name, and file declaratory judgments to clean her credit. Again, this is time consuming and expensive, but the least offensive way of curing this problem.
Answer Applies to: Texas
Replied: 5/10/2011
    Timothy J. Thill P.C.
    Timothy J. Thill P.C. | Timothy J. Thill
    If you have a prior criminal record, or if the amount involved in the theft is significant, you can get jail time. However, in many cases, you will be sentenced to probation with restitution. Your daughter does not have to pursue criminal charges, but other parties involved who may be hurt by your activity may give your daughter no option but to pursue criminal charges. This is an area outside my field of expertise, and involves possible civil lawsuits, as opposed to criminal suits. Getting your daughter's credit record cleared could involve having to pursue criminal charges against you. Seek the advice of an attorney who has experience in this area of the law.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 5/9/2011
    Theodore W. Robinson, P.C.
    Theodore W. Robinson, P.C. | Theodore W. Robinson
    Yes, her credit can be fixed without contacting the police - however, it will take time to fix it. Have her see a credit repair attorney and work out a payment schedule to repay whatever you owe. However, it will take a substantial period of time to fix her credit - about two years - but it probably wouldn't be fixed any quicker for her by reporting your fraud.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 5/9/2011
    Law Office of Jonathan T. Sarre
    Law Office of Jonathan T. Sarre | Jonathan T. Sarre
    Like in any other situation, there isn't any law that says your daughter has to call the cops. If she tries to avoid paying back the credit card people by arguing that you opened the accounts fraudulently, they may demand that she prosecute you but otherwise she wouldn't have to bring the law into the picture. If the jurisdiction allows it, you and she may also agree to what is known as a civil compromise where you pay her back in exchange for her promise not to prosecute you. Even if you are eventually convicted, depending on your record, you may just come out with only probation and community service versus jail or prison time.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 5/9/2011
    Bloom Legal, LLC
    Bloom Legal, LLC | Seth J. Bloom
    All of these questions depend upon a large number of factors. The short answer is that if your daughter refers the matter to the police then you will definitely face the risk of jail time and serious fines. The law uses both the value of the goods, services, or items received as a result of the identity theft as well as the age of the victim at the time of the theft to determine the harshness of the penalties. The best way to fix her credit outside of the courts would be to repay any debts in full but it will still be a long process before her credit score and report recover fully. Your best option is likely to hire an attorney who can work with you to create a case that would attempt to keep you from serving jail time while also reporting the identity theft to appropriate credit agencies, etc. This is most likely if it is possible to convince a judge that a jail sentence would not be appropriate in this instance and if you have a clean criminal record.
    Answer Applies to: Louisiana
    Replied: 5/9/2011
    Michael Anthony Wing, P.C.
    Michael Anthony Wing, P.C. | Michael Anthony Wing
    I am not certain. She could contact the three major credit bureaus to see what could be done without filing criminal charges against you. They may require proof from her that she has reported the matter as a criminal fraud to avoid a fraud being perpetrated on them. If you could somehow pay the amounts due, it may help. You know it's always about the money. Stay well.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 5/6/2011
    Kevin Smith, Attorney at Law
    Kevin Smith, Attorney at Law | Kevin Smith
    You should understand that by discussing the facts of your case in this fashion in a public forum, you are exposing yourself in a way that may harm your rights and ultimately your case, if you should be arrested. You would be better off contacting a criminal defense attorney to discuss your case in confidence if you are going to get into these types of specifics. However, in identity theft cases generally, you should be prepared to make full restitution, or in other words pay back the money you cost the victim. Depending upon how much that is and your criminal record, you may be able to use a pretrial diversionary program to avoid any jail time. Again, in your case it is imperative that you contact a criminal defense attorney immediately, as it may be possible to avoid an arrest altogether.
    Answer Applies to: Connecticut
    Replied: 5/6/2011
    Law Office of Phillip Weiser
    Law Office of Phillip Weiser | Phillip L. Weiser
    This depends upon if you are charged, what charge they bring, where the charge is filed, and your prior criminal history. Normally, I would expect a probation sentence for this.
    Answer Applies to: Kansas
    Replied: 5/6/2011
    Law Office of Richard Williams
    Law Office of Richard Williams | Richard Williams
    Your actions amount not only to an identity theft but also possible fraud charges. These charges will likely be felony charges and could result in a conviction and possible jail time. Probably most of the charges would be class c felonies which carry a penalty of up to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000. This does not mean that you would automatically receive time in prison as a number of factors determine whether a jail sentence is appropriate.Attempting to clean up your daughter's credit would be most difficult and may require the involvement of law enforcement pr at the least involving security with the utilities and banks. It may be out of your daughter's hands to keep you from being exposed.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 5/6/2011
    The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
    The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr. | Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
    If no one reports the events, probably no prosecution. This could be both a state and a federal offense. Prompt repayment of outstanding debts on the cards MAY restore the credit.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 5/6/2011
    Harris Law Firm
    Harris Law Firm | Jennifer C. Robins
    Depending on the amount of harm done, how many criminal charges there are, there could be some jail time imposed if you are found guilty. It depends on whether you have a criminal history and how the state in which you live classifies ID Theft. ID Theft is a felony in Oregon and a felony conviction carries many consequences beyond just jail time. I would recommend you consult with an attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 5/6/2011
    Beaulier Law Office
    Beaulier Law Office | Maury Beaulier
    Identity theft is a very serious offense. The amount of debt incurred in that person's name affects the charge. Any debt in excess of $500 is a felony. If the amount is $2500 or greater, the penalties include prison of up to 10 years. You should hire legal counsel immediately.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 5/6/2011
    Law Offices of John Carney
    Law Offices of John Carney | John Carney
    You used your daughter's Social Security number to make credit card purchases and therefore committed both state and federal crimes. As long as you pay off the debt you will not hurt her credit and may not be arrested. You must pay it on time or her credit will be affected and the longer you allow it to remain open the more likely you will be arrested. As far as the utility accounts, you must change the name as soon as possible before they realize the fraud. You were desperate and made a very poor decision but it may not be too late to avoid problems if you take care of it right away. Make sure you make it up to her by cleaning her house, cooking her dinner, and doing her some favors so that she can forgive you and trust you again. Even if you are arrested they may not be able to prove anything as long as you do not answer any questions and ask for an appointed attorney. You will not get a jail term if you have no prior criminal record, you will probably be placed on probation.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 5/5/2011
    Miller & Harrison, LLC
    Miller & Harrison, LLC | David Harrison
    It depends on your prior criminal record and other factors but in most counties you would likely not be looking at jail time.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 5/5/2011
    Law Office of Peter F. Goldscheider
    Law Office of Peter F. Goldscheider | Peter Goldscheider
    Once the matter is turned over to the police, your daughter can no longer control what happens. You do not make it clear what stage things are at. If she contacts the various companies and says that she is working out a restitution deal with the person responsible, maybe it is not too late. Getting an attorney to assist in this process may be helpful.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 5/5/2011
    Harden Law Offices
    Harden Law Offices | Leonard D. Harden
    Yes you may be able to avoid jail, you should contact a defense lawyer asap. It is important that you not make any statements to anybody. If you have ability to pay money make the account whole, then close account. Call a lawyer!
    Answer Applies to: New Hampshire
    Replied: 5/5/2011
    Goolsby Law Office
    Goolsby Law Office | Richard Goolsby
    I am sure you hope she doesn't contact the police, but, yes, it is important that you retain an attorney because identity theft is considered a serious offense. Good luck!
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 5/5/2011
    Law Office of Rankin Johnson IV, LLC
    Law Office of Rankin Johnson IV, LLC | Rankin Johnson IV
    Whether you go to jail is only partly up to her. In theory, the state, if they learn about the crime, could charge you without her cooperation. In practice, they are less likely to do so. Dealing with fallout from identity theft might be a reason for her to hire an attorney for that specific problem, not a criminal attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 5/5/2011
    Law Office of Andrew Subin
    Law Office of Andrew Subin | Andrew Subin
    Identity theft in the first degree has a sentence range of 3-9 months. Identity theft in the second degree has a range of 0-90 days (if you have no prior felony record). I am not sure about repairing the damage to your daughter's credit without contacting the police. If she does contact the police about this, it will be out of her control at that point.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 5/5/2011
    Benari Law Firm
    Benari Law Firm | Arik T. Benari
    It would be highly advisable to find an attorney to help you. Our firm represents people charged with identity theft very often. It is a felony and is taken very seriously by the prosecutors. A seasoned attorney may be able to work with your daughter to help repair her credit and keep you out of trouble at the same time. If you are in the greater Philadelphia region, feel free to give us a call to see if we can help.
    Answer Applies to: Pennsylvania
    Replied: 5/5/2011
    Ferguson & Ferguson
    Ferguson & Ferguson | Randy W. Ferguson
    Yes. You would have to notify credit card companies and make plans to pay it back and fix her credit. They might try to prosecute you. If you have not been in trouble before, you should get probation, although a felony will hurt you. Even if you do it, it might not fix her credit. Try to pay it off without police involvement.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 5/5/2011
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC | Timothy J. Klisz
    Pay off the debts and she won't have to go to the police. Otherwise, she will have no choice other than to fall on the sword for you and eat the debts or go to the police and the restitution will be your problem.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 5/5/2011
    Nelson & Lawless
    Nelson & Lawless | Terry Nelson
    You can make good on this, and avoid her filing charges, but credit damage will be tough to fix through the credit agencies involved. It can be done, but youll need money, time, and legal help to do so. If she files criminal charges, no attorney can predict the outcome, nor even give an intelligent opinion, without reviewing and knowing all the charges, evidence, reports, testimony, priors history, etc.

    However, effective plea-bargaining, using whatever legal defenses, facts and sympathies there may be, could possibly keep you out of jail, or at least dramatically reduce it, depending upon all the facts. Not exactly a do it yourself project in court for someone who does not know how to effectively represent himself against a professional prosecutor intending to convict. If you don't know how to do these things effectively, then hire an attorney that does, who will try to get a dismissal, diversion program, reduction or other decent outcome through plea bargain, or take it to trial.

    If serious about hiring counsel to help you in this, and if this is in SoCal courts, feel free to contact me. Ill be happy to help use whatever defenses there may be.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 5/5/2011
    Thomas J. Tomko Attorney At law
    Thomas J. Tomko Attorney At law | Thomas J. Tomko
    In general, it is impossible to tell whether jail is a real likelihood in your case. This will depend on your prior record and the offense itself. Also, the Judge in your case and the prosecutor will have a direct bearing on whether jail is likely. The specific charges which are brought will determine what the maximum sentence is in your case. Therefore, until you are charged, the maximum is not known for sure. In many cases a plea can be reached. Jail time is not expected if this is your only offense, the money was paid back, and the victim is not complaining to the point of asking for jail time. In general, if you repay all of the debt you created, it will go a long way if you are criminally charged. This will be important both at the plea stage and at the sentencing stage. Fixing someone's credit is a tricky matter. I cannot say how or if this is possible. Little is known from your question about the transaction(s) which cause the problem. Should you wish an attorney to review your case and give you specific advice, you should contact one, retain them, and then perhaps more could be known.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 5/5/2011
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