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New York Expands the Geographical Jurisdiction for Offenses of Identity Theft

Legislative successes can often happen in ways that are difficult to follow.  It is not always as straightforward and transparent a process as one would like.  For instance, anyone who has read through hundreds of pages of a budget bill knows that those pages may contain very important legislative proposals that, at first glance, do not seem particularly budget-related.  If those proposals pass as part of the budget, however, they are no less the law than if they had passed as stand-alone bills.

The City Bar’s Criminal Justice Operations Committee recently experienced how a bill can become a law by taking a circuitous route.  In March 2009, the Committee proposed amendments to the Criminal Procedure Law (CPL) to establish enhanced venue provisions for crimes closely related to the offenses of identity theft and unlawful possession of personal identification information, which already enjoy enhanced venue.  Specifically, the Committee suggested that the underlying identity theft crimes “together with an additional offense or offenses arising from the same criminal transaction” may be prosecuted in the county where the offense, or part of the offense, took place, in the county in which the person who suffered financial loss resided at the time of the offense, or in the county where the person whose personal identification information was used resided at the time of the offense.  This was meant to achieve judicial efficiency without compromising fairness to the defendant.

The proposed amendments were initially introduced by former Senator, now Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in April 2010 and soon after passed the Senate, but no progress was made in the Assembly before the end of the 2009-2010 legislative term.  The bill was then reintroduced into the Legislature earlier this year by Assembly Member Lentol and Senator Krueger as A.5440/S.885.  Once again the bill passed the Senate but made little progress in the Assembly.  In many cases a bill of this legislative posture would be carried over into the next session and would require further advocacy or perhaps amendments in order to advance.  However, the jam-packed month of June sometimes offers opportunities for bills to move through more unconventional means.

In the case of this bill, it was included in an omnibus “mandate relief” bill passed on the last day of session (see Section 3 of subpart C of part C of A.8518/S.5856).  Including stand-alone bills in a negotiated omnibus bill is one way to increase the chances of its passage.  And it was in this way that the identity theft bill became law on June 24.  With the legislation taking effect immediately, New York now has expanded geographical jurisdiction for identity theft crimes and all crimes which are part of the same criminal transaction, such as larceny.  This will allow for the prosecution of all related crimes in a single venue, which will economize resources for the parties and the court.

September 2, 2011