Identity theft is a serious crime in Pennsylvania, with grading ranging from a first-degree misdemeanor to a first-degree felony. As a result, it can be challenging to clean up your criminal record to move on with your life. While expungement is typically the most efficient way to hide a criminal conviction, not many people qualify for expungement under Pennsylvania law. However, our state does offer another option.
While sealing your record does not destroy arrest or court records, it can limit the public's access to them, making background checks for employment, loans, or rentals easier to pass. While law enforcement and court agencies still have access to your criminal records, most people won't. Pennsylvania law offers you two options to clean up a misdemeanor conviction for identity theft, including automatic sealing through Clean Slate and an Act 5 petition with the court.
Pennsylvania Statute for Identity Theft
You may face charges for identity theft in Pennsylvania if you use someone else's identifying information without their consent, “through any means,” to “further any unlawful purpose.” Each time you possess or use someone else's identifying information, it's a separate offense under the identity theft statute. 18 Pa. Stat. § 4120 (2013).
Penalties for Identity Theft in Pennsylvania
How the police grade your identity theft charge will vary based on the circumstances of your case and the total value of any property or services you obtained by using the identifying information. However, grading for identity theft can range from a first-degree misdemeanor to a first-degree felony.
- Identity Theft Misdemeanor Penalties If the total value of the property or services involved is less than $2,000, identity theft is a first-degree misdemeanor. In Pennsylvania, a first-degree misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of $1,500 to $10,000 and up to five years in prison. However, if the victim is 60 or over, under 18, or a care-dependent person, identity theft increases by one grade, becoming a third-degree felony.
- Identity Theft Felony Penalties Penalties for felony identity theft convictions can be serious. However, the grading can depend on several factors, including the value of the services or property obtained, the victim's age, whether this is your first conviction, and whether the identity theft was in furtherance of a criminal conspiracy.
- Third-degree Felony If the total value of the services or property obtained through identity theft is $2,000 or more, identity theft is a third-degree felony. Additionally, if you committed the identity theft “in furtherance of a criminal conspiracy,” it is a third-degree felony regardless of the value of the services or property you obtained. In Pennsylvania, a third-degree felony is punishable by up to seven years in prison and a fine of $2,500 to $15,000.
- Second-degree Felony Regardless of the total value of services or property obtained through identity theft, if this is your third or subsequent offense, identity theft is a second-degree misdemeanor. In Pennsylvania, a second-degree felony is punishable by up to ten years in prison and up to a $25,000 fine.
- First-degree Felony If the victim of the identity theft is under 18, 60, or older, or a care-dependent person, the grading for identity theft increases. A third-degree felony becomes a second-degree felony, and a second-degree felony becomes a first-degree felony. Under Pennsylvania law, a first-degree felony is punishable by ten to 20 years in prison and up to a $25,000 fine.
Sealing Your Identity Theft Record Through Clean Slate
Unfortunately, sealing an identity theft conviction through Clean Slate may not be possible. This new legislation, passed by the Pennsylvania state legislature in 2019, was intended to allow more people to seal their records with minimal effort. Before 2019, many qualified people didn't seal their records because they didn't know they were eligible or because the process was too difficult. The new Clean Slate law allows the state to automatically seal the records of qualifying people after five to ten years.
You may qualify for Clean Slate automatic sealing if:
- Your conviction is for a summary offense, a first-degree misdemeanor, or a second-degree misdemeanor,
- You don't have a conviction because of a “not guilty” verdict or dismissal of your charges, or
- Your conviction is for an ungraded offense or misdemeanor punishable by two years or less in prison.
If you have a first-degree misdemeanor or felony conviction for identity theft, you will not be eligible to seal your records automatically through Clean Slate.
Sealing Your Identity Theft Record with an Act 5 Petition
Even if you don't qualify to seal your first-degree misdemeanor conviction for identity theft automatically, you may be able to petition the court for limited public access to your records under Act 5 of Clean Slate. You may qualify for an Act 5 petition if:
- You have a misdemeanor conviction punishable by five years or less,
- You wait ten years after completing your sentence and paying all of your fines,
- You don't have any additional prosecutions or arrests for crimes punishable by a year or more in jail.
If you have a first-degree misdemeanor conviction for identity theft in Pennsylvania, the maximum penalty is five years in prison. Therefore, you may qualify to petition the court to seal your records under Act 5.
If you have a felony conviction for identity theft of any grade, you won't be able to seal your records with an Act 5 petition or through Clean Slate automatic sealing. You should consult an experienced sealing and expungement attorney to discuss your options.
You Need an Experienced Pennsylvania Sealing and Expungement Attorney
If you have a conviction on your record for identity theft, it can affect your professional and personal reputation for years to come. But figuring out the best option to clean up your arrest and court records can be challenging. That's why you need an experienced Pennsylvania sealing and expungement lawyer to guide you through the process efficiently. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his skilled team have been helping Pennsylvanians with the sealing and expungement of criminal records for years. Find out how they can help you. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888.535.3686 to schedule your consultation, or contact them online.