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Fake ID using own name not aggravated ID theft, 7th Circuit rules

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An Indiana man who supplied a fake identification that used the recipient’s real name may not be subjected to the federal aggravated identity theft statute, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday in a unanimous en banc decision.

At issue is whether the definition of “another person” in Section 1028A of the United States Code means anyone other than the defendant. The court warned against applying that standard; the prosecution advocated for a statute that carries an automatic two-year consecutive sentence.

“If the prosecutor is right, §1028A acquires a surprising scope,” Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote for the panel in United States of America v. Christopher Spears, 11-1683.

“It would, for example, require a mandatory two-year consecutive sentence every time a tax-return preparer claims an improper deduction, because the return is transferred to the IRS, concerns a person other than the preparer, includes a means of identifying that person (a Social Security number), and facilitates fraud against the United States (which §1028A(c)(4) lists as a predicate crime),” Easterbook wrote.

Lake County resident Christopher Spears made fake handgun carry permits, driver’s licenses and other forms of ID. He was convicted in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division, of producing false identification, five counts of unlawful possession of false identification documents and aggravated identify theft.

A three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit previously vacated some of those convictions but affirmed the aggravated identity theft and producing false ID convictions. Spears was sentenced to 34 months in prison, plus the two-year mandatory sentence under the ID theft conviction.

The en banc decision affirmed the prior 7th Circuit decision except for the conviction and sentence for ID theft.

“Crimes are supposed to be defined by the legislature, not by clever prosecutors riffing on equivocal language. A reasonable person reading §1028A(a)(1) would not conclude that Congress has definitely used the word “another” to specify every person other than the defendant, as opposed to a person whose information has been misappropriated,” Easterbrook wrote.

“Section 1028A, we hold, uses ‘another person’ to refer to a person who did not consent to the use of the ‘means of identification’. This decision, in conjunction with the panel’s disposition of the convictions under statutes other than §1028A, mean that two of Spears’s convictions have been reversed, while three remain. The district court’s judgment is vacated, and the case is remanded for resentencing on those three convictions.”   
 

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  1. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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