The New Jersey statute that deals with identity theft is N.J.S. 2C:21-17. That statute defines five different ways that a person can commit identity theft.
The first way has three components, or “elements.” The first element is that the accused person knowingly impersonated another, or assumed a false identity. “Impersonate” means to assume the character or appearance of another, or to imitate the appearance, voice, or manner of another. The second element is that the accused person knowingly did an act in such assumed character or false identity, The final element is that the accused person's purpose in doing that act was one (or more) of the following:
- To obtain a benefit for himself;
- To obtain a benefit for another;
- To injure another; or
- To defraud another.
The second method of identity theft in New Jersey is identical to the first, with one exception: The first method relates to knowingly impersonating someone else. What this second method involves is pretending to be a representative of a person or organization.
The third way to commit identify theft in New Jersey again has three elements. They are very similar to the first method. What is different is that this third method must be made in an oral or written application for services; and the purpose for the impersonation must be to obtain services.
The fourth way to commit identify theft in New Jersey has four elements: The accused must obtain personal identifying information pertaining to another person; he must use the information or assist another person to use the information in order to assume the identity of another person or in order to represent himself as another person; he must be aware that he lacks authorization to use the other individual' personal information; and he must have as his purpose any of the following:
- Fraudulently obtain a benefit or services, or
- Attempt to obtain a benefit or services, or
- Avoid the payment of debt or other legal obligation, or
- Avoid prosecution for a crime by using the name of the other person.
Note: Provisions also exist under New Jersey expungement law for victims of identity theft to have arrests and convictions committed by others in the victims' name expunged. Our NJExpungements.com site has a page that provides the text of the relevant statute.
Finally we reach the fifth and last way that a person can commit the crime of identify theft in New Jersey. This fifth way has three elements: The accused person must knowingly impersonate another, or assume a false identity, or make a false or misleading statement; the impersonation, assumption of false identity, false statement, or misleading statement must occur in the course of him making an oral or written application for services; and the impersonation, assumption of false identity, false statement, or misleading statement must be made for the purpose of avoiding payment for prior services.
Under New Jersey law, purpose to avoid payment for prior services may be inferred from proof that the accused person has not made full payment for prior services and has impersonated another, assumed a false identity or made a false or misleading statement regarding the identity of any person in the course of making oral or written application for those services. This inference is permissive, not mandatory. It is up to a jury to determine whether the facts and circumstances shown by the evidence support any inference. The jury is always free to accept them or reject them if it wishes.
Persons charged with identity theft will seldom be facing just that one charge. Companion charges such as forgery, theft, theft of services, and even burglary will typically be part of the mix. Allan Marain is a criminal defense lawyer in New Jersey. He has forty-five years experience. He defends persons charged with identity theft. If you have been, or may be, charged with identity theft, or any of the companion offenses, call him for a no-charge no-obligation conference.