What is “Use” or “Possession” of Identifying Information?
In this information age most people have identity documents or other identifying information. These include credit cards, debit cards, Social Security numbers, passports, state driver’s licenses, and/or ID cards. People are charged with Fraudulent Use of Possession of Identifying Information if they possess or use someone’s document without permission. This is a charge in state court, and this is the title of the charge used in Texas.
Identifying information can be in several forms, and the statute is to prevent persons from using others’ sensitive information. Often, the identifying information is stolen, and regardless, a criminal case is based upon use or possession without consent. Forms of identifying information stolen or illegally obtained are listed above. Again, these are driver’s licenses, Social Security numbers, credit cards, debit cards, passports, and government IDs. The identifying information can also be in the form of a birth certificate, or other paper document used as identity. An identifying document can also be a voice identifier, fingerprint, eye scan, or electronic access information.
A person can be criminally charged simply by possessing another’s identifying information. The information can be in the forms listed above, such as driver’s license, Social Security number, credit card, etc. A person can be charged with possessing just one identifying information card or document. The identifying information can also be in the form of a birth certificate, or other paper document if it has sensitive identifying information or if a person is attempting to use that document as his form of identity.
Use means that a person uses the card, government ID, or document for gain or to use it as identity. The use is usually to obtain money or access credit.
Texas Penal Code under Fraud
The Texas statute reads as follows (in part):
(a) In this section:
(1) “Identifying information” means information that alone or in conjunction with other information identifies a person, including a person’s:
(A) name and date of birth;
(B) unique biometric data, including the person’s fingerprint, voice print, or retina or iris image;
(C) unique electronic identification number, address, routing code, or financial institution account number;
(D) telecommunication identifying information or access device; and
(E) social security number or other government-issued identification number.
(2) “Telecommunication access device” means a card, plate, code, account number, personal identification number, electronic serial number, mobile identification number, or other telecommunications service, equipment, or instrument identifier or means of account access that alone or in conjunction with another telecommunication access device may be used to:
(A) obtain money, goods, services, or other thing of value; or
(B) initiate a transfer of funds other than a transfer originated solely by paper instrument.
(b) A person commits an offense if the person, with the intent to harm or defraud another, obtains, possesses, transfers, or uses an item of:
(1) identifying information of another person without the other person’s consent;
(2) information concerning a deceased natural person, including a stillborn infant or fetus, that would be identifying information of that person were that person alive, if the item of information is obtained, possessed, transferred, or used without legal authorization; or
(3) identifying information of a child younger than 18 years of age.
Presumptions of Intent
The Texas statute prohibiting possession or use of another person’s identifying information creates presumptions against the person possessing the information. If you possess identifying information of three or more persons, there is a presumption of intent to defraud or harm.
What to Do If Under Investigation or Arrested
An experienced defense attorney will be able learn of the state’s evidence before you are formally charged. You may be able to provide favorable evidence to the prosecution, to try to convince the prosecutor not to prosecute.
Attorney John Teakell is a former federal prosecutor and former state prosecutor. He can negotiate and strategize your case to try to obtain the best outcome under your circumstances.