California residents are likely very familiar with the concept of identity theft. Defined as willfully taking another person’s identifying information and using it without obtaining their consent, identity theft can include anything from applying for a credit card to using a Social Security number.

Identity theft can result in serious penalties. However, many Californians may be less familiar with the more severe crime of “criminal identity theft.” This occurs when the actions of the offender affect another individual’s criminal record. What should you know about criminal identity theft?

A deeper dive into criminal identity theft

As stated by the Office of the Attorney General, “criminal identity theft” can be a misleading and confusing term. While all identity theft in California is considered a crime, criminal identity theft refers to a specific subset of identity theft.

A common example of this can occur during an arrest. The criminal offender may give the arresting officer the name and identifying information of another individual. The exchange of this information can then result in a criminal record for that individual.

Serious consequences can result for both parties

Whether you are the alleged offender or victim, the effects of criminal identity theft can be devastating. For the offender, penalties include:

  • Fines
  • A term of imprisonment for up to one year in a county jail
  • Both a fine and a term in county jail

Depending on the specifics of the offense as well as the criminal record of the offender, the sentence and penalties may worsen. You may also face consequences for the crime you were initially arrested for.

For the victim, the consequences include the start of a criminal record. A criminal record can make it difficult to apply for a job, housing, loans and more. Furthermore, the process to clear your name can be challenging and depending on the circumstances, time-consuming. The Office of the Attorney General provides details on how to clear your name.

Whether you face accusations of criminal identity theft or now have a false criminal record in your name, it is important to understand your rights and options to move forward. Work with a criminal defense attorney to advocate for you and guard against harsh consequences.