Over Meaning of 'Use,' Identity Theft Counts Thrown Out

, The National Law Journal


U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit Judge Richard Griffin
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit Judge Richard Griffin

In court papers, Moses argued the law doesn't require a person to impersonate someone else—a hallmark in the identity theft arena. The words "impersonate" and "pretend," she said, don't appear in the statute.

"Though impersonation is certainly conduct that falls within and is often addressed by [aggravated identity theft], the statute does not require it," Moses said.

The Sixth Circuit panel, which included judges Jeffrey Sutton and Eric Clay, rejected the government's broad interpretation of the word "use."

Miller, the Sixth Circuit panel said, "persuasively argues that the meaning of 'uses' is not as expansive as the government suggests and that the term must have practical boundaries, particularly in cases such as this where the only 'means of identification' used is a name."

The government didn't entirely lose the case. The appeals court kept intact a false-statement conviction against Miller. For that crime, based on Miller's lying to the bank about having authority to pledge property for his personal loan, he was sentenced to 21 months in prison.

Contact Mike Scarcella at mscarcella@alm.com.

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