Monday, May 04, 2009

Supreme Court rules against government in immigration identity-theft case

Supreme Court rules against government in immigration identity-theft case - Los Angeles Times

"The Supreme Court today took away one tool for prosecuting and deporting workers who are in this country illegally, ruling that the crime of identity theft is limited to those who knew they had stolen another person's Social Security number.

"The 9-0 decision overturns part of an Illinois man's conviction for using false documents.

"The court agreed he could be imprisoned for using an ID card he knew was false, but it also said he could not be charged with a felony of 'aggravated identity theft' because he did not know he was using someone's Social Security number."

If any of the Supreme Court justices had had their identities stolen or "borrowed", their accounts raided, and their credit histories damaged as a result, I wonder if they would have ruled differently.

So, if I break into someone's house, find a pile of cash, and take it, it's not necessarily stealing, as long as I didn't know with certainty that the cash actually belonged to somebody?

Anyone who buys false identification -with or without a Social Security number- reasonably can be expected to realize that since the identifying information does not belong to himself, it quite possibly belongs to another real individual. It's reasonable to expect that buying such false documents should fall within the scope of laws prohibiting "identity theft".

The Supreme Court's decision was unanimous, so it seems there was little controversy over the meaning of the law. Rather than blaming the court for a poor decision, it's probably more appropriate to blame the law for being badly written.

Perhaps identity theft laws should be expanded to prohibit any deliberate use Social Security numbers, account numbers, names, etc., that do not belong to the individual presenting them.

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