Monday, October 20, 2008

Supremes to Resolve Circuit Split in Identity Fraud Cases

The Supreme Court granted cert (Flores-Figueroa v. U.S. (08-108)) today in a key identity fraud case.  (Click here for a N.Y. Times discussion of the significance of the case.).  The Court, in the only new grant on Monday, agreed to spell out the proof that federal prosecutors must offer in order to obtain a conviction for criminal identity theft under a 2004 law.

The Sunday Washington Post had a story about about the pssibility of the Supreme Court addressing the Bush administration's increasing use of the identity fraud criminal charges in immigraton enforcement, such as in the raid on the Agriprocessors plant in Postville, Iowa in May 2008.  Federal appellate courts are divided over the government's burden of proof in aggravated identity theft cases, a dispute that has reached the Supreme Court in petitions for writs of certiorari filed in two Eight Circuit decisions. The justices are deciding whether to take two cases that could determine whether prosecutors can continue to bring the charge in federal courts.  At issue is whether prosecutors must prove that defendants knew that fraudulent Social Security numbers or other documents they used belonged to a real person as opposed to being fabricated. The Justice Department argues that prosecutors do not have to prove knowledge, and three appellate courts have rendered decisions backing that position. Three others, however, have ruled otherwise.

SCOTUS Blog has designated the writ petitions in the two cases under consideration as "petitions to watch" and has links to the opnions below, briefs, etc.  The cases are Flores-Figueroa v. United States  and Nicasio Mendoza-Gonzalez v. United States. The issue presented in the cases is:

Whether an individual who used a false means of identification but did not know it belonged to another person can be convicted of “aggravated identity theft” under 18 U.S.C. 1028A(a)(1).


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