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EgaoNoGenki's avatar

Can a 5-year-old still be prosecuted for identity theft?

Asked by EgaoNoGenki (1158points) December 27th, 2009

(I will post why I asked after I get a couple of reasonable answers, or at least one good one.)

A child under 10 gets the entire info of someone’s credit & debit cards, and uses it to buy the coolest toys.

The cardowner’s bills show a sudden set of charges from an unfamiliar place, to an unfamiliar vendor, for unfamiliar items.

The card company (or the toy companies) tell the owner the address that the illicit charges are shipped to.

As soon as he gets ahold of that information, what do the courts do to the child when it’s all traced to him?

(Does he stay in Juvie all the way ‘til he’s 18, or does he just do community service for a lot of hours? Remember, this is a child committing identity theft.)

If he can’t be prosecuted, what happens instead?

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22 Answers

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EgaoNoGenki's avatar

@Sampson I’ll just hope that there’s one on here. Thanks.

(Or any non-lawyer who knows about this law and penalties will suffice.)

jerv's avatar

Technically no since you can’t be prosecuted that young. One of the principle that the law goes on when convicting is mens rea and a 5-year-old lacks that. However the parents/legal guardians may be on the hook for lack of supervision.

I think it best to ask a legal professional though since random people on the ‘net may not be the best source of advice in a situation like this.

Fluthermucker's avatar

Using another person’s credit card number is not identity theft…it is fraud, larceny and probably some other mail fraud type charges. Identity theft involves taking over the actual identity of said victim, changing account addresses, opening new accounts, actually assuming that person’s “credit” or other identity. That is not in your original question scenario…that is simply fraud and theft.

To answer your question of whether or not he would be prosecuted; Without planned malice, I doubt it. I would also doubt that even the most devious 10 year old would be able to pull off that kind of heist. Ordering something from online, yeah, Identity theft, no.

phillis's avatar

This would be the parents paying the bill, is my GUESS. They’ll likely be held accountable for damages in civil court, not before a prosecuting attorney in a criminal case.

Tomfafa's avatar

Can a 5 y.o. really have that where with all to do such a thing? Did this really happen? I think jerv got something… can you prove criminal intent?

EgaoNoGenki's avatar

Thanks, you all. This is to help me decide whether to have the protagonist use the cards from his previous life to purchase new items in his second childhood. Great insights!

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

I’m not a lawyer, but I tend to agree with @jerv that the child is too young to face any kind of prosecution, but the parents may be in deep guano for not properly supervising the child. At the very least, the parent(s) should have realized that something was going on when things were delivered to their home that they had not ordered. Financial restitution at the very least.

Kelly_Obrien's avatar

The parents are liable for the crimes of the very young, especially where there are monetary damages.

john65pennington's avatar

Parents are liable. you would be surprised at some of the laws that protect juveniles from being arrested for certain offenses.

antimatter's avatar

Give the kid a good hiding and let his parents pay you back. After that you call child services and let them sort out the parents, how did that kid know how to steal?

Tomfafa's avatar

I see a promising future for this kid!

sakura's avatar

what an intelligent child :0 )

HighShaman's avatar

IF what you outline actually happened ; I will almost GUARANTEE you that the child HELP from someone older….

At five years of age ; evn ten… I hav etoo much DOUBT that they can pull something like that off ; without some assistance of the person whose IDEA it was….

A five year old child CAN be taken to juvenile court ; BUT it is very seldom done. Usually the parents of the child get penalized in some manner…

galileogirl's avatar

I can’t believe any 5 yo would have the knowledge to fill out forms necessary. If in fact this actually happened I see a 15 yo behind it. Whoever did it must be connected with the cardholder and either familiar with his username/password or SSN. I think the cardholder knows who did it and doesn’t want to prosecute. He probably put the 5 yo up because a 5 yo cannot form intent, a necessary component for any criminal act.

If all this is not coming from @jerv ‘s overactive imagination. Waiting for proof.

EgaoNoGenki's avatar

@galileogirl Well, it’s just for this “Second Childhood” novel I’m planning. Now I know what’s supposed to happen. Again, thanks for all your answers.

(The twist here is, the owner of the cards got into a coma after a car accident and will have a unique form of mental impairment when he wakes up. Someone will have a power of attorney, but I still don’t know whether his card debts will get forgiven due to the mental incapacitation.)

DrBill's avatar

@jerv Mens rea = No crime is committed without an evil intent

If the child is aware what they are doing is wrong, the conditions of mens rea have been met no matter the age.

In this case, Illinois law would hold the legal guardians liable for the damages caused. I have seen on the local news here, children as young as 4 being arrested.

EgaoNoGenki's avatar

@DrBill Good thing he doesn’t live in Illinois. Tanaka lives in Colonie, NY.

jerv's avatar

@DrBill True, but considering how malleable a mind is at that age it’s a little tricky to determine whether they actually knew it was wrong at the time the act was committed or whether they realized it was wrong in hindsight, possibly due to outside influences. Therefore, while it’s a possibility to establish mens rea, it’s a little trickier than it is with more mature defendants and therefore less likely.

galileogirl's avatar

All Jellies: Someone shuld be keeping track of all of these questions that are really plot points. If any of the ensuing “novels” ever get published, we should get writing credit and a piece of the profits.

jerv's avatar

@galileogirl True, but I think the way it often works out is a mention on the “Special thanks” page and maybe a free copy of the book.
It would be nice to get some royalties though :D

Fluthermucker's avatar

@jerv ~Did you fall and hit your head on something blunt or do you maybe just stand too close to the microwave when it’s in operation?~

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