Minimum Sentencing for Aggravated Identity Theft

Identity theft is becoming one of the most common crimes because so many of us depend on computers and smartphones to conduct our personal and business affairs. We shop, bank, send and collect money through person-to-person (P2P) apps, and even file our tax returns online. In 2021, Americans lost more than $52 billion from identity theft and identity fraud scams.i Law enforcement authorities are under great pressure to identify and vigorously prosecute anyone involved in any level of identity-related crime. 

But some identity theft and fraud offenses are considered more serious than others, and both Florida state law and U.S. federal law imposes mandatory minimum prison sentences on those convicted of these “aggravated identity theft” offenses. 

Attorneys Ben Stechschulte and Amy Nell are two of very few Florida lawyers who are state-certified criminal defense specialists. From the Tampa office of the Stechschulte Nell Law Firm, they represent everyone in the Tampa – St. Petersburg – Clearwater Metro area facing any type of identity theft or fraud criminal allegations in state or federal court. The full weight of the government, providing unlimited resources to prosecutors, will be against you.  

Only experienced, independent criminal defense lawyers will be there for you, by your side, through every step of the process. Don’t face the government without the best identity theft defense lawyers. Contact Stechschulte Nell today. 



What is Aggravated Identity Theft? 


Aggravated Identity Theft occurs when someone commits identity theft under particular circumstances that are specifically listed in the criminal statute. Both the U.S. Criminal Code and the Florida Statutes contain special “aggravating conditions” that make a plain identity theft crime especially serious. The aggravating features of identity theft crimes are shown in the section below, but first, let’s look at what the law says about standard identity theft crimes in Florida and federally 

To be convicted of any identity theft crime, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the following facts: 

Under Florida Law (Called Fraudulent Use of Personal Identity Information): 

  • willfully  
  • without authorization 
  • used with fraudulent intent (or possessed with intent to fraudulently use) 
  • personal identification information of another person, alive or dead, or of a dissolved business entity 
  • without first obtaining their consent 

This standard identity theft offense is punishable under Florida law by up to 5 years in prison, a $5,000 fine, plus probation and fees. No mandatory minimum sentence applies. 


Under Federal Law 

The federal statute is a bit different from Florida’s in that the federal statute focuses on identity crimes involving the knowing use or dealing in false identification and stolen documents relating to the identities of others with fraudulent intent. This offense carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison, plus fines, fees, and forfeiture of related assets. But there is no mandatory minimum prison sentence. 


What Is Aggravated Identity Theft?


When crimes are committed under circumstances making the crime more serious, the law increase penalties to make the punishment proportionate to the wrongdoing. We call these “aggravating factors.” In the context of aggravated identity theft crimes and aggravated identity fraud, the maximum prison sentences are much longer, AND the law mandates a minimum prison sentence be imposed for any conviction. Both Florida and federal law require that every person convicted must go to prison. 

The factors that are typically considered aggravating factors include the victim’s age, the defendant’s prior criminal convictions, the number of victims, or whether any violence was involved. 

Florida’s “Fraudulent Practices” law punishes aggravated identity theft in levels. One level of aggravated identity theft requires a minimum of 3 years in prison, the next level demands 5 years in prison. The third level of severity mandates a 10-year minimum prison sentence.  


Aggravated Identity Theft Under Florida Law — To convict someone under Florida law of aggravated identity theft, state prosecutors must be able to prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt: 

Level 1 (3 years mandatory minimum prison sentence) 

  • defendant willfully  
  • without authorization  
  • fraudulent uses personal identification information of another person or  
  • and either 

-involves benefits, services, payments, or injury valued at $5,000 or more, or 

-involves personal identification information of 10 or more but fewer than 20 persons, 

  • without first obtaining their consent. 


Level 2 (5 years mandatory minimum prison sentence) 

  • defendant willfully and with fraudulent intent 
  • uses personal identification information  
  • of multiple deceased persons or dissolved business entities 
  • and either  

-involves benefit, services, payments, fraud, or injury valued at $50,000 or more, or 

-involves personal identification information of 20 or more but fewer than 30 deceased people or dissolved business entities. 

Florida law provides for a prison sentence of not more than 30 years but not less than 5 years to serve. No person convicted of aggravated identity theft in Florida can be sentenced to less than a 5-year prison term. 


Level 3 (10 years mandatory minimum prison sentence) 

  • defendant willfully and with fraudulent intent 
  • uses personal identification information 
  • of multiple deceased persons or dissolved business entities 
  • and either  

-involves benefit, services, payments, fraud, or injury valued at $100,000 or more, or 

-personal identification information of 30 or more deceased people or dissolved business entities. 

Anyone convicted of this, the most serious of Florida’s aggravated identity theft crimes must be sentenced to no less than 10 years in prison. 


Aggravated Identity Theft Under Federal Law  


The federal law defines aggravated identity theft more comprehensively than Florida law. If a person is convicted of identity theft in connection with any one of a long list of felonies, then the ID theft will qualify as aggravated identity theft. Under the United States Criminal Code, federal prosecutors must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt: 

  • defendant knowingly 
  • transfers, possesses, or uses a means of identification 
  • belonging to another person 
  • during and in relation to any felony listed in 18 U.S. Code § 1828A(c) (generally including ID theft involving public money, embezzlement by bank employees, nationality or citizenship issues, obtaining a firearm, bank fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, customer information, resident alien status, passports or visas, relating to Social Security, and more than can be listed in this blog post.) (See 18 U.S. Code § 1028A(c)). 


Federal Mandatory Minimum Prison Sentence —  


Federal law imposes a mandatory minimum sentence of 2 years in prison consecutive to any other sentence imposed for other felonies. The law forbids any federal judge from reducing the other prison sentence in consideration of the extra 2-year sentence.  


Charged With Identity Theft? 


If you have been charged with identity theft in the state of Florida, call our experienced defense lawyers at Stechschulte Nell for a case review today; 813-280-1244.



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