The state assembly has introduced a new bill that aims to make life a lot harder for identity thieves.
The Assembly Public Safety Committee unanimously passed AB 1105, written by 35th District Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson on May 6. The bill adds identity theft and filing false documents to the list of crimes for which the statute of limitations does not begin until the discovery of the offense.
The existing California law allows for a three to four year statute of limitations period for identity theft, starting from when the crime is committed. Perpetrators of such crimes can only be prosecuted if the victim reports the crime within this time period. However, the nature of these crimes makes this policy problematic, as credit history, liens on homes and other legal documents that would indicate identity theft are not observed on a regular basis. Thus, the crimes often go undetected by the victim for many years.
“The law must not hinder the prosecution of identity thieves simply because of the nature of the crime,” Jackson said. “This is a simple but important measure that alters the statute of limitations to more appropriately reflect this type of crime and the delay that commonly exists in discovering it.”
A constituent who was a victim of identity theft brought the problem with the existing statute of limitations law to Jackson’s attention. Someone had used his identity to purchase a cell phone in 1998 and cancelled the service in 1999, with the debt going on the victim’s credit report. It was not until three and a half years later, in November 2002, that the charge was discovered. Under the existing statute, the victim would have only six months to bring charges against the perpetrator.