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Identity Theft, § 943.201 – Obtaining Lower Bail, as Something of “Value”

State v. Pamela L. Peters, 2003 WI 88, on certification
For Peters: Terry W. Rose

Issue/Holding:

¶1. This case is before the court on certification from the court of appeals on a question of first-impression regarding the scope of Wisconsin’s identity theft statute, Wis. Stat. § 943.201(1999-2000). Specifically, the question is whether a defendant who misappropriates another’s identity and uses it during an arrest and in subsequent bail proceedings to obtain lower bail has done so “to obtain credit, money, goods, services or anything else of value” within the meaning of the identity theft statute. Wis. Stat. § 943.201(2). We answer this question yes.¶2. “Bail” is statutorily defined as “monetary conditions of release.” Wis. Stat. § 969.001(1). “Monetary” means “of or relating to money.” Webster’s Third New International Dictionary 1457-58 (1998). Bail can consist of cash or an unsecured appearance bond or both. Wis. Stat. §§ 969.02 and 969.03. In either case, it operates as a form of credit, securing the defendant’s return to court. Accordingly, a defendant who misappropriates another’s identity and uses it during an arrest and in bail proceedings to obtain lower bail has stolen that identity to obtain credit or money, or both, within the meaning of the identity theft statute. Wis. Stat. § 943.201(2).

The court goes on to say that nothing in the statute explicitly or implicitly “limits its application to identity thefts that are carried out to obtain something that has ‘commercial value’ or ‘market value.’” ¶17. A concurrence points out that this statement isn’t necessary, is dicta. ¶35. And, indeed, the majority also acknowledges:

¶23. Accordingly, this case does not require us to determine the precise meaning or scope of the phrase “or anything else of value” in the identity theft statute. It is enough to note that the addition of the phrase “or anything else of value” to the itemized list of “credit, money, goods [or] services” does not narrow the meaning of “credit, money, goods [or] services.” There is no purpose for the presence of the phrase “or anything else of value” except to expand the list of potential qualifying “things of value.” But we do not need to determine the precise meaning or scope of the phrase “or anything else of value” or attempt to delineate the outer limits of the identity theft statute in order to decide this case. Because bail can be cash, a bond, or both, and operates as a form of credit, the misappropriation of another’s identity to obtain lower bail meets the statute’s requirement that the perpetrator misappropriate an identity to obtain credit or money. Wis. Stat. § 943.201(2)

 

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