Passports serve a few very important purposes, as they are the primary form of international travel document, but also qualify as legal proof of a person’s identity and U.S. citizenship. Despite efforts by the federal government to prevent it, passports are stolen or fraudulently manufactured at an alarming rate. Unfortunately, because of prosecutorial zeal, many innocent people are arrested on suspicion of passport fraud every year. Having the advice of an attorney is crucial in these situations, so if you were arrested for passport fraud, you should consider speaking with an experienced white collar crime attorney who can help you formulate a defense.
What is Passport Fraud?
Passport fraud can be committed in a number of different ways, including by:
- Assuming the identity of a deceased individual during the passport application process;
- Using false support documents, such as a fake birth certificate, when applying for a passport;
- Using a stolen or altered passport; and
- Forging a parent’s signature on a child’s passport.
While most people are aware that these activities qualify as passport fraud, few know that any false statement made on an application or while a passport is being used is also unlawful.
Before a person can be convicted under federal law, prosecutors must first demonstrate that the defendant:
- Willfully and knowingly made the false statement; and
- Had the intent to secure the issuance of a passport for his or her own use or the use of another.
Even attempting to use a passport that was fraudulently obtained is punishable under federal law, although prosecutors are still required to prove that the user knew that the passport was secured because someone gave a false statement. Those who are convicted of this offense face up to ten years in prison, unless prosecutors allege that the passport was used for drug trafficking purposes, in which case the sentence could be increased to 20 years.
Forgery and Alteration
Federal law also prohibits creating, forging, counterfeiting, mutilating, and altering passports with the intent to use them, as well as willfully using, attempting to use, or furnishing someone else with a forged or altered passport. Penalties include hefty fines and prison sentences of up to 25 years.
Using a Forged Passport
Even those who were not involved in a passport’s forgery or alteration can be charged under federal law if they:
- Used or tried to use a passport that was issued to someone else;
- Used or attempted to use a passport in violation of federal restrictions or conditions; or
- Furnished or delivered a passport to any person, for use by someone other than the person to whom it was issued.
Proving a defendant’s knowledge of the true nature of a forged or altered passport is critical to obtaining a conviction, which makes it especially important that those who have been charged with passport fraud speak with an experienced white collar crime lawyer who can help protect their interests.
Call our Legal Team Today
Please contact Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A., Criminal Defense Attorneys at 305-670-9919 to speak with a dedicated white collar crime attorney about your own case. Our Miami legal team is prepared to assist you immediately.