Supreme Court Rules Fake IDs Not Necessarily ‘Identity Theft’
On May 4, 2009, the Supreme Court ruled that using counterfeit identification cards to gain employment does not necessarily constitute aggravated identity theft.
In 2000, to secure employment, Ignacio Flores-Figueroa, a Mexican citizen, gave his employer counterfeit Social Security and green cards that showed his name but included other people’s identification numbers. He was arrested and charged with two immigration offenses, along with aggravated identity theft. The government noted that the applicable law imposes a mandatory prison term on certain offenders if they “knowingly…use[ ], without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person.” Mr. Flores-Figueroa argued that the government could not prove that he knew the numbers on the counterfeit documents were assigned to other people, but the government responded that it need not prove such knowledge.
The Supreme Court said it had granted certiorari to consider the knowledge issue, a matter about which the Circuits have disagreed. The Court, extensively citing English grammar, concluded that the law requires the government to show that the defendant knew that the means of identification at issue belonged to another person. The Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remanded the case “for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”