JEFFERSON CITY— Identity thieves would risk increasingly harsh penalties — up to life in prison — under legislation given final passage Thursday.
The House approved the bill on an announced vote of 126-3 and sent it to Gov. Bob Holden. The sponsor, Republican Rep. Jason Brown of Platte City, said more than 2,500 Missourians were victims of identity theft in 2002.
Identity theft in Missouri now carries maximum sentences of six months in jail for the first offense, one year for the second offense and up to five years in prison for subsequent offenses.
Under the bill, the sentences would rise with the value of the items purchased with the stolen identity.
If an identity were stolen but no purchases were made, the maximum sentence would be six months in jail and a $500 fine.
Using the stolen identity to buy less than $500 worth of goods or services would carry a maximum of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. But repeat offenders under those same criteria could be charged with felonies punishable by up to four years in prison.
The punishments rise all the way to life imprisonment for purchasing goods or services worth $100,000 or more while using a stolen identity.
The legislation defines identity theft as the unauthorized use of a Social Security number, driver’s license number, passport, bank account number, credit or debit card number, password or personal identification number or biometric data, including fingerprints.
A court could also require an identity thief to pay damages to the victim of $5,000 per incident or triple the actual damages, whichever is greater.
Identity theft with the intention of committing a terrorist act would be punishable by 10 to 30 years in prison or life imprisonment. Identity theft for the purpose of committing voter fraud could send a thief to prison for up to seven years.
And selling false identifications would be punishable by five to 15 years in prison.