In Louisiana, people commit the crime of identity theft, sometimes called identity fraud, by using or possessing another person’s identifying information without permission. Oftentimes, identity thieves obtain personal information from public and online records, and by stealing mail, trash, and wallets. Thieves then use the information to access the victim’s bank and credit accounts, or establish new accounts and run up debt, ruining the victim’s credit.
For general information on the crime of identity theft, see Identity Theft Law.
In Louisiana, a person commits identity theft by using, attempting to use, or possessing someone else’s personal identifying information to obtain money, goods, services, credit, or anything else of value without permission. For example, an employee who uses an employer’s credit card for the defendant’s own personal use and without permission could be convicted of identity theft. Identity theft is punished more severely if the victim is over the age of 60 or under the age of 17 or disabled. In Louisiana, people who obtain identification documents for the purpose of misrepresenting their ages are exempt from prosecution for identity theft.
Personal identifying information includes (but is not limited to) a person’s:
- Social Security or driver’s license number
- bank account or credit card number or information
- birth certificate, or
- mother’s maiden name.
(La. Rev. Stat. § 14:67.16.)
Possessing or Manufacturing Fraudulent Documents
Under Louisiana’s laws, it is also a crime to manufacture, possess, sell, buy, or otherwise distribute fraudulent documents (those that are false, counterfeit, or altered) containing personal identification information that purport to be bona fide. For example, possession of a fake passport would be punishable under this law.
(La. Rev. Stat. § 14:70.7.)
Finally, it is also a crime in Louisiana to impersonate some other person in order to open an email account or social networking profile, or other online account or profile; or to send email, instant messages, or text messages. In order to be convicted of online impersonation, the defendant must have the intent to harm, intimidate, threaten, or defraud. For example, a person who, in order to bully a coworker, opens a social networking account in the coworker’s name and publishes embarrassing posts could be convicted of online impersonation.
Louisiana’s lawmakers have specifically exempted people who work for social networking sites, Internet service providers, cable and telecommunications companies, and law enforcement are exempt from prosecution for online impersonation for acts done in the course of their employment. For example, a police officer who impersonates a child online in order to catch a sexual predator cannot be convicted of impersonation.
(La. Rev. Stat. § 14:73.10.)
Punishment for identity theft varies based on the value of the goods, services, or other things obtained and whether the victim is over 60, under 17, or disabled. For example, identity theft of good or services valued at less than $300 is punishable by up to six months in jail, a fine of up to $500, or both. Identity theft of goods or services valued at $1,000 or more is punishable by up to ten years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
In Louisiana, imprisonment may be with or without hard labor. If the victim is particularly vulnerable, then the defendant must be sentenced to a term in jail or prison. Third and subsequent convictions are punished more severely. The court must also order a defendant convicted of identity theft to pay restitution to the victim for any financial losses the victim suffers as a result of the crime.
Online impersonation is punishable by ten days to six months in jail, a fine of $250 to $1,000, or both, but juveniles convicted of online impersonation may be given a different sentence. Possession of false documents is punishable by up to six months in jail, a fine of up to $500, or both. Manufacturing or distributing false documents is punishable by up to three years in prison, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
(La. Rev. Stat. §§ 14:67.16, 14:70.7, 14:73.10.)
Obtaining Legal Assistance
If you are charged with identity theft in Louisiana, you should talk to a local criminal defense attorney about your case. A conviction for identity theft or a similar crime can have serious consequences, including a felony criminal record and time in prison at hard labor. Only an experienced criminal defense attorney can tell you what to expect in court and whether you are in a good position to make a deal or go to trial. With an attorney’s help, you can hopefully obtain the best possible outcome in your case.