Smith's Criminal Case Compendium

Smith's Criminal Case Compendium

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This compendium includes significant criminal cases by the U.S. Supreme Court & N.C. appellate courts, Nov. 2008 – Present. Selected 4th Circuit cases also are included.

Jessica Smith prepared case summaries Nov. 2008-June 4, 2019; later summaries are prepared by other School staff.

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E.g., 09/26/2021
E.g., 09/26/2021

A Kansas identity theft statute which criminalizes the “using” of any “personal identifying information” belonging to another person with the intent to “[d]efraud that person, or anyone else, in order to receive any benefit” was not preempted by the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA).  The IRCA makes it unlawful to hire and alien knowing that he or she is unauthorized to work in the United States.  To enforce this prohibition, the IRCA requires employers to use a federal work-authorization form (I-9) to comply with a federal employment verification system.  The IRCA also requires that employees complete an I-9 no later than their first day of work and it is a federal crime to provide false information on an I-9 or use fraudulent documents to show authorization to work.  In addition, the IRCA limits the use of information “contained in” I-9 forms “for law enforcement purposes” apart from the enforcement of certain federal statutes and the Immigration and Nationality Act, and also contains a provision that expressly “preempt[s] any State or local law imposing civil or criminal sanctions (other than through licensing or similar laws) upon those who employ, or recruit or refer for a fee for employment, unauthorized aliens.”  The preemption provision makes no mention of state or local laws that impose criminal or civil sanctions on employees or applicants for employment.

The alien defendants in this case were not authorized to work in the United States and secured employment by using identities of other persons, including those persons’ social security numbers, on I-9 forms.  Each of them used these same false identities when they completed federal W-4 tax withholding forms and similar state K-4 tax withholding forms.  Each defendant was convicted of a Kansas identity theft offense related to their use of another person’s social security number on the tax forms, the same numbers they had used on the I-9 forms.  The Court reversed the decision of the divided Kansas Supreme Court which had determined that since the social security numbers had been used in the I-9 forms, the convictions were preempted by the IRCA based on the fact that the social security numbers were “contained in” the I-9 forms.  The Court held that the Kansas identity theft laws were neither expressly nor impliedly preempted by federal law.  With respect to express preemption, the court explained that (1) the express preemption contained in the IRCA applied only to State and local laws imposing sanctions on employers and recruiters; (2) the Kansas Supreme Court’s interpretion of the IRCA limitation on the use of information “contained in” an I-9 form to preempt a state prosecution based on the use of a false social security number in a tax form when that number also had been used in an I-9 form was “flatly contrary to standard English usage” of the term “contained in;” and (3) the defendants’ argument that a provision of the IRCA generally prohibiting the use of the federal employment verification system for “law enforcement purposes” rested on a misunderstanding of that system and its relationship to the circumstances of this case.  The court went on to find that the Kansas laws, as applied, were not preempted by implication, finding neither field preemption nor conflict preemption.    

Justice Thomas joined by Justice Gorsuch, each of whom also joined the majority opinion in full, filed a concurring opinion to separately reiterate the view that the court should abandon its “purposes and objective” preemption jurisprudence.

Justice Breyer, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan, concurred in part and dissented in part, agreeing with the majority opinion that the IRCA did not expressly preempt the Kansas criminal law at issue but disagreeing with the majority opinion’s implied preemption analysis on the basis that “Congress has occupied at least the narrow field of policing fraud committed to demonstrate federal work authorization.”

State v. Jones, 367 N.C. 299 (Mar. 7, 2014)

Affirming the decision below in State v. Jones, 223 N.C. App. 487 (Nov. 20, 2012), the court held that the evidence was sufficient to establish identity theft. The case arose out of a scheme whereby one of the defendants, who worked at a hotel, obtained the four victim’s credit card information when they checked into the premises. The defendant argued the evidence was insufficient on his intent to fraudulently use the victim’s cards. However, the court found that based on evidence that the defendant had fraudulently used other individuals’ credit card numbers, a reasonable juror could infer that he possessed the four victim’s credit card numbers with the intent to fraudulently represent that he was those individuals for the purpose of making financial transactions in their names. The defendant argued further that the transactions involving other individuals’ credit cards actually negated the required intent because when he made them, he used false names that did not match the credit cards used. He continued, asserting that this negates the suggestion that he intended to represent himself as the person named on the cards. The court rejected that argument, stating: “We cannot conclude that the Legislature intended for individuals to escape criminal liability simply by stating or signing a name that differs from the cardholder’s name. Such a result would be absurd and contravene the manifest purpose of the Legislature to criminalize fraudulent use of identifying information.”

When the defendant was treated at the hospital for gunshot wounds he sustained in his altercation with the victim, he provided another person’s name, date of birth, and address. A warrant for his arrest was issued under this false identity, and he was subsequently charged with identity theft. The trial court instructed the jury that a person’s name, date of birth, and address “would be personal identifying information” under the identity theft statute.

G.S. 14-113.20 sets forth fourteen examples of “identifying information,” none of which specifically reference the appropriation of a person’s name, date of birth, and address. A catch-all category incorporates “[a]ny other numbers or information that can be used to access a person’s financial resources.” The court rejected the notion that identifying information under the identity theft statute includes only the types of information listed by example. It also concluded that even if the list was exclusive, the defendant’s use of another person’s name, date of birth, and address would fall under the catch-all category. Thus, the court found no error in the trial court’s jury instruction.

In an identity theft case, the evidence was sufficient to establish that the defendant "used" or "possessed" another person’s social security number to avoid legal consequences. After being detained and questioned for shoplifting, the defendant falsely gave the officer his name as Roy Lamar Ward and provided the officer with the name of an employer, date of birth, and possible address. The officer then obtained Ward's social security number, wrote it on the citation, and issued the citation to the defendant. The defendant neither signed the citation nor confirmed the listed social security number.

The defendant’s active (and false) acknowledgement to an officer that the last four digits of his social security number were “2301” constituted the use of identifying information of another within the meaning of G.S. 14-113.20(a).

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