Nearly every criminal defendant must make a choice between accepting a plea bargain and going to trial. It’s impossible to make an informed choice, however, until you understand the consequences of a criminal conviction. Whether you accept a plea deal or are adjudicated guilty of identity theft doesn’t change the potential consequences of the conviction.
The experienced Knoxville identity theft defense attorneys at Barnes Law can help you understand the consequences of an identity theft conviction in Tennessee. Our identity theft defense lawyers help clients make informed decisions about their identity theft charges. Whether you’ve been charged in Tennessee federal or state court, call us today at (865) 805-5703 or contact us online for a free and confidential identity theft defense consultation.
Prison and Probation
Both identity theft and identity theft trafficking are felony offenses in Tennessee. Tennessee actually has mandatory minimum prison sentences for felons. Identity theft is punishable as a Tennessee Class D felony. This means you will serve at least 2 years but not more than 12 years in prison for a single offense. Identity theft trafficking is punishable as a Class C felony, which means you may serve not less than 3 years but not more than 15 years in prison. These sentences are applicable to each count of identity theft meaning a judge can “stack” convictions to extend your period of incarceration. Further, your sentence will be increased based on your sentencing “range,” which includes your criminal history and any aggravating factors. Mitigating factors, however, can work to lower this range. Once released from prison, most offenders are subject to probation. This limits your ability to travel and includes certain mandatory meetings and administrative requirements.
Civil Fines, Penalties, and Restitution
In addition to a possible prison sentence, defendants may be subject to civil fines, administrative costs, and restitution. The fine for each count of identity theft is capped at $5,000, while the fine for identity theft trafficking is capped at $10,000. Your fines, if any, will be set by the judge, but you will typically have to pay certain court fees and administrative costs. In addition to any fines imposed, those convicted of identity theft will have to make restitution to victims. Restitution is defined as compensation paid to the victim for any losses sustained from the criminal act. Victims of identity theft can include the owner of the stolen information and/or any credit card companies defrauded. This may include:
- The cost of any items illegally purchased,
- The cost of correcting the victim’s credit report,
- The cost of issuing the victim new identity documents, and
- Attorney or administrative fees expended by victims to investigate and correct the identity theft.
Unlike fines, restitution is not always optional. If a known victim can prove losses, he or she may be able to claim restitution or sue for damages in Tennessee’s civil courts.
Seizure and Judicial Forfeiture of Assets
Identity theft in Tennessee is also punishable by “disgorgement.” The following property is subject to seizure and sale if you’re convicted of identity theft:
- Any property, including personal or real property, directly or indirectly acquired by the identity theft
- Any property received as an incentive to steal someone’s identity, i.e., money paid to steal a credit card or received in exchange for selling stolen personal information.
- Any property traceable to the proceeds of the identity theft. For example, if you purchased a car using someone else’s credit score and then traded that car for a motorcycle, the motorcycle is subject to seizure. Even if you paid additional cash for the motorcycle or gave it to your wife, it is still traceable to the identity theft.
- Any property used in connection with the identity theft. This can include computers, hard drives, cars, false identifications, and/or forgery documents.
- Lastly, any property purchased or conveyed to aid in an escape. This can include money put aside for an escape or an airplane purchased to flee the country.
It’s essential to have an experienced identity theft attorney on your side during the disgorgement process. The government may attempt to seize anything remotely associated with the identity theft no matter how far removed. It’s permitted to sell this property and keep seized funds to pay the state’s litigation costs, reimburse victims, and distribute to law enforcement agencies. The government has a substantial incentive to demand asset forfeiture.
General Consequences of Criminal Convictions in Tennessee
Because identity theft is a felony, there are additional consequences associated with a felony conviction in Tennessee. These are the consequences less experienced criminal defense attorneys may neglect to discuss with their clients. They include:
- Loss of state and federal voting rights.
- A felony on your criminal record that will appear in background checks. This may limit your ability to travel, purchase property, or get a loan.
- Exclusion from employment in certain professions including jobs requiring a professional license, jobs involving children, or jobs involving personal identifying information. This can include work as a nurse, police officer, or accountant.
- Deportation for non-citizens, even those with legal status, and
- Loss of the right to purchase, own, and/or bear firearms.
While on probation, you may be prohibited from leaving the state. The court or your probation officer can impose additional restrictions during this period. Tennessee permits certain non-violent felons to keep firearms, but federal law may prohibit their transfer or purchase. If the rights as mentioned above are essential to your livelihood, it’s critical that you speak to an experienced defense lawyer as soon as you possibly can.
Contact a Knoxville Identity Theft Defense Attorney Today
Working with a Tennessee identity theft criminal defense attorney may mean the difference between a felony or misdemeanor conviction, which can substantially reduce prison time. Avoiding a felony conviction may also spare your livelihood and constitutional rights. To schedule your free, confidential criminal defense consultation, call Barnes Law today at (865) 805-5703 or contact us online