Proposed bill aims to crack down on identity theft - WFLA News Channel 8

Proposed bill aims to crack down on identity theft in Florida

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A bill aiming to crack down on identity theft is making its way through the Florida Legislature.

State senators in Tallahassee on Monday held a hearing on SB 1126, sponsored by State Sen. Arthenia Joyner, which would allow suspects to be charged for possessing identities that don't belong to them. Currently, law enforcement must prove intent to fraudulently use the identities – not just possession.

The Tampa Bay area has been a major hot spot for identity theft and tax refund fraud. Suspects use the stolen identities to file fake tax returns to get refund money, delaying legitimate refunds to the victims and leaving them to sort out the mess with the IRS.

"We need to do what's necessary to make sure this does not continue to happen and Florida does not continue to have this black eye of all of these people stealing identities and using them to benefit themselves financially," Joyner said.

The idea of changing the law to take out the need to prove "intent" has raised some concerns about making the law overly broad and whether innocent people could get caught up in it, but Joyner said the law allows for certain defenses.

"We're not interested in arresting CPAs or accountants or merely anyone who has a family member's identification," said Corp. Bruce Crumpler of the Hillsborough Co. Sheriff's Office. "The law, the specific bill, is designed to allow the person to reasonably explain why they're in possession of what they have."

Crumpler said if the proposed law were in place today, it would allow certain cases to move faster - including one in which a six-year-old brought 52 debit cards in other people's names to school in February. No charges have been filed in that case.

A six-member criminal justice committee unanimously voted to send the bill on to the next stop on Monday. It is now scheduled to be heard by the appropriations subcommittee on criminal and civil justice on April 4.

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