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February 1, 2008

For More Information, Contact:
Hema Sareen Mohan (650) 688-6384


SACRAMENTO - “As criminals adapt technology to devise new ways to steal, the state must adapt its laws to prosecute them,” said State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), praising Senate approval of his Senate Bill (SB) 612, which would give victims of identity theft a better opportunity to obtain justice.

Simitian introduced SB 612, which passed 40-0, to allow identity theft to be prosecuted in the county in which the victim lives, which is not always the case now. Current law permits prosecution in the county in which the theft occurred or the county in which the information was illegally used, both of which may be hundreds of miles away from the victim’s home.

“Too often identity thieves can act with impunity simply because their victims live in a remote community,” Simitian said. While current law enables prosecutions on behalf of victims anywhere, “expecting a local district attorney to prosecute a case when the victim or victims are all at the other end of the state is simply unrealistic,” he said.

“If someone steals your wallet or your car, the existing system makes sense,’’ said Simitian. “But computer crime ignores geography. Suppose a thief sitting at a computer in San Diego uses a ruse to obtain the personal identification information of a San Jose man, then swipes money from his online brokerage. The law says the crime occurred in San Diego; and, unless a San Diego prosecutor takes up the case, the San Jose victim is out of luck.”

Regardless of what the law says, victims feel as if the crime happened at home. Simitian notes, “Local prosecutors are likely to be more aggressive on behalf of local victims. The existing system actually favors the criminal rather than the victim of identity theft.” SB 612 would permit, but not require, prosecution in the county where the victim resides. A judge would decide where to hold the trial.

Simitian introduced SB 612 as a bi-partisan measure, with Republican State Senators Dave Cogdill and Bob Margett as joint authors. The measure is supported by statewide law enforcement and privacy groups.

Lenny Goldberg of Privacy Rights Clearinghouse said, “Senator Simitian’s legislation puts some teeth into our existing laws regarding identity theft. Without prosecution, there’s no deterrent.”

For more information on SB 612, visit and click on the link for Legislation.