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Identity theft: Federal Way creates state's first misdemeanor law

The Federal Way City Council unanimously approved the state’s first misdemeanor level identity theft law.

The new law, as written, allows for the prosecution of identity theft perpetrators when the damages to the victim are $1,000 or less. The new ordinance classified the crime as a gross misdemeanor, meaning those prosecuted under it could face up to a year in jail, a $5,000 fine, or both.

The law was created not in response to an observable spike in low level identity theft, but rather in response to the King County Prosecutor’s Office declining to move forward on such cases at times, said Federal Way city spokesman Chris Carrel.

“The problem the ordinance is addressing is the gap between state statute, which defines identity theft as a felony, and King County’s resources for trying felony cases,” Carrel said. “King County prosecutors sometimes decline identity theft cases due to limited resources. Since the city does not have identity theft in the Federal Way Revised Code, we cannot address those identity theft crimes that occur in Federal Way that King County may decline to prosecute. The proposed ordinance will create a new section to the Federal Way Revised Code for identity theft and give city prosecutors the tools to file misdemeanor charges if or when felony charges are declined.”

According to the ordinance as written, those found guilty under the new law are “liable for civil damages of $1,000 or actual damages, whichever is greater, including costs to repair the victim’s credit record and reasonable attorneys’ fees as determined by the courts.”

A person charged under the ordinance doesn’t have to live within Federal Way, only the victim, according to the ordinance. It also notes that “the provisions of this section do not apply to any person who obtains another person’s drivers license or other form of identification for the sole purpose of misrepresenting his or her age.”

 

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