In Maine, a person commits identity theft (sometimes called misuse of identification) by possessing or using someone else’s account number, credit or debit card, or identification for the defendant’s gain. Identity theft or fraud generally involves “stealing” a person’s identifying information and using it to access the victim’s financial accounts or establish new accounts, and run up debt. The thief impersonates the victim and, in the process, can ruin the victim’s credit history. Identity thieves obtain personal information from public and online records and by stealing mail, trash, and wallets.
For general information on the crime of identity theft, see Identity Theft Law.
Misuse of Identification
Under Maine’s laws, a person commits the crime of misuse of identification by, in an effort to obtain goods, services, or confidential information, using or presenting:
- a stolen, forged, or canceled credit or debit card or one obtained by fraud or deception
- an account, credit, or billing number that the defendant does not have permission to use or that was obtained by fraud or deception, or
- any form of “legal identification” without the owner’s permission.
For example, a person who calls a bank and gives someone else’s name and birth date in order to obtain a bank account number without permission has committed the crime of misuse of identification.
Legal identification includes Social Security cards and numbers, birth certificates, driver's licenses, and identification cards. An oral statement of a full name or date of birth is also considered a form of legal identification.
It is an affirmative defense to the crime that the defendant believed he or she had permission to use the card, number, or identification. For example, a salesperson who uses an employer’s credit card to purchase goods for the business on the belief that the employer has authorized the use has a defense.
(Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. Tit. 17-A § 905-A.)
Theft by Deception
In Maine, people commit this crime by obtaining another’s person property by deception with the intent to deprive the victim of the property. For example, a person who poses as someone else in order to obtain government benefits to which the defendant is not entitled could be convicted of theft by deception. The punishment for theft varies based on the value of the property taken.
(Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. Tit. 17-A § 354.)
For more information on theft in Maine, see Maine Petty Theft and Other Theft Laws.
Misuse of identification is a Class D crime, punishable by up to one year in county jail and a fine of up to $2,000. The punishment for theft by deception ranges from a Class E crime, punishable by up to six months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000, if the property is valued at less than $500; to a Class B crime, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000, if the property is valued at more than $10,000. If a person has two or more convictions for theft, the crime is punished more severely.
(Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. Tit. 17-A §§ 354, 905-A, 1252, 1301.)
Obtaining Legal Assistance
A conviction for misuse of identification or theft by deception can result in time in prison or jail, a fine, and a criminal record, which can make it difficult to obtain a job, even years later. If you are charged with identity theft, you should talk to a criminal defense attorney practicing in Maine about the case. An attorney can tell you what to expect in court and help you navigate the criminal justice system so that you can achieve the best possible outcome in your case.