House battles identity theft

The House of Representatives and Senate meet regularly inside the captiol building.

The House of Representatives and Senate meet regularly inside the captiol building.

In 2002 an estimated seven million Americans were victims of identity theft. Social Security numbers, credit cards and bank accounts are just a few targets.

Once criminals have access to personal information they can destroy credit, drain bank accounts or even cause the individuals to be arrested for a crime they did not commit.

On Jan. 13 the Missouri House of Representatives passed a bill that will make identity theft a Class B felony punishable by four years to life in prison depending on the severity of the theft. Prior to the bill being passed, identity theft was only a misdemeanor and had a sentence limited to one year in jail for a second-time offender.

Critics of the bill questioned whether using another person’s identification should warrant a felony. It was disputed whether an 18 year old using another person’s ID to purchase alcohol should face such a heavy sentence.

Local representatives were present Jan. 13 at the House chamber when the House made the final decision.

“I like this legislation,” said Rep. Kevin Wilson (R-Neosho). “We need protection against identity theft.”

Rep. Bryan P. Stevenson (R-Webb City) agreed.

“I think it is an important bill,” he said. “I think it is one of the most important pieces of legislation we have this year.

“There are certain pieces of legislation that are specifically designed to protect the citizens of our state. I think it is the appropriate time for this bill.

“It will make it a little more difficult for college students to get fake driver’s licenses; I think for that, the prosecutor should have discretion. I think that it will be a determinate to underage drinking. I think we need to look carefully at everything we make a felony, but in this case I believe it is appropriate.”

Wilson agreed.

“I think it will decrease underage drinking,” he said.

“The bill’s intent is if I take your identity and use it; it should be a felony. If I am 21 and you are 18 and you use my ID, I’m not sure if that is a felony. If you are still identifying yourself, just making yourself older. I don’t think that should be the same thing.”