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Nancy  Madsen
By Nancy Madsen January 6, 2013

Bill coming up again this winter

Bob McDonnell vowed to protect your good name.

In August 2009, his gubernatorial campaign issued a public safety plan that contained this promise:

"McDonnell will propose legislation to toughen Virginia"s identity theft laws. Individuals who obtain identities with the intent to sell or distribute them will be subject to a Class 4 felony. Further, in addition to any other offenses (grand larceny, for example), thieves who use stolen identities to buy merchandise, to impersonate a law enforcement officer, or to impede a criminal investigation, will be subject to a Class 5 felony.”

Legislation containing those exact provisions was introduced in January 2010 by Del. Robert Bell, R-Albemarle. Under the bill, those who sold or distributed stolen identities would face mandatory prison sentences of at least two years and a fine up to $100,000. Those who used stolen identities to buy goods, impersonate a police officer or impede a criminal investigation faced the possibility of one year in prison and/or a $2,500 fine.

The bill died in the House Courts of Justice Committee without coming up for a vote. The state was emerging from recession in early 2010 and Bell said lawmakers were reluctant to pass legislation that would drive up costs by increasing the number of state prisoners. The Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission wrote that it was unable to estimate the financial impact of the bill.

"I don"t think anyone was against the bill,” Bell said. "We just didn"t have the money.”

Bell said he plans to reintroduce the bill this winter on behalf of McDonnell. The cost is still undetermined. Bell noted that under current state law, a person must steal and distribute at least five identities before it becomes a felony.

"This says once is enough for a felony,” he said.

McDonnell has followed through on his pledge to introduce legislation toughening identity theft laws. We rate this a Promise Kept.

Our Sources

McDonnell, "McDonnell Unveils Public Safety Program,” August, 2009.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, "McDonnell, a poised presence, could lift the GOP,” Oct. 18, 2009.

Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission, Financial impact of HB 932, Jan. 4, 2010.

Legislative Information System, HB 932, Jan. 13, 2010.

Interview with Del. Robert Bell, R-Albemarle, Jan. 4, 2013.

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