Houston Criminal Defense Attorney
Identity Theft

How is identity theft defined in Texas law?

Identity theft is a crime that has made a lot of headlines, in Texas and around the country, in recent years. The crime can cover everything from an individual using their roommate's credit card without their permission, to the theft of data regarding tens of thousands of people from a major retailer.

Under the Texas Penal Code, an individual commits identity theft when they obtain, use or possess an item of identifying information that belongs to another person, with the intent to defraud or harm another person. Identifying information is defined in the law to include such things as names and dates of birth, social security numbers, bank account numbers and ATM PINs. Merely possessing another person's identifying information is not in itself identity theft; there must also be the intent to use that information to harm or defraud. Such intent is presumed if the defendant is in possession of identifying information belonging to three or more people.

It does not matter if the person whose identifying information was taken is living or dead. If the identifying information belongs to a person under the age of 18, the fact they consented to give it to you is not in itself a defense to an identity theft charge, although it might show the absence of the necessary intent to harm or defraud.

Identity theft carries severe penalties under Texas law. The penalties increase with the number of items of personal information obtained or possessed by the defendant. As with other theft crimes, including robbery, shoplifting, and possession of stolen property, defenses are available. If you have been charged with identity theft, an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney can help protect your rights.

Source: Tex. Penal Code § 32.51