Supreme Court tackles identity theft statute some say is too broad

Published: Feb. 27, 2023 at 6:00 PM EST
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Is it identity theft if you commit fraud while using someone’s name? That’s the question The U.S. Supreme Court is tasked with answering.

Dubin vs the United States revolves around David Dubin admitting to improperly billing for Medicaid. However, because Dubin used a customer’s name and Medicaid ID in the offense, he is also being charged with federal aggravated identity theft based on a law Congress passed in 2004.

“The language basically says that anyone who uses information identifying another person in the course of committing some fraud, also commits a more serious offense of aggravated identity theft,” said Pepperdine law professor Joel Johnson, who filed an amicus brief in the case.

The government argues by the letter of the law, Dubin is guilty. But Justice Sotomayor said that interpretation is too vague and opens up too many offenses to a federal charge.

“A parent lists their child as a dependent and lies about childcare services,” Sotomayor said. “There’s no way to exempt that out.”

Justice Gorsuch said the law is written so vaguely, it could step on the toes of state’s rights by imposing federal crimes on a wide variety of issues.

“If the government’s theory is correct, and every time i order salmon at a restaurant, i’m told it’s fresh, but it’s frozen, and my credit card is run for fresh salmon, that’s identity theft. what’s left of state law?” Gorsuch said.

The aggravated identity theft charge carries a 2 year mandatory minimum sentence.