Ruling on immigrants, id theft by Supreme Court

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Supreme Court rules on immigrants' id theft

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PHOENIX - The United States Supreme Court delivered a landmark ruling on illegal immigrants and identity theft on Monday.

The court ruled that the crime of identity theft is limited to those who knew they had stolen a real person's social security number. 3TV went to the county attorney to see if this is going to impact any of his prosecutions. Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas says, "Arizona has a tremendous problem with both identity theft and illegal immigration and those problems are related."

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a favorite tool of prosecutors in immigration cases as they ruled unanimously that a federal identity theft law may not be used against many illegal workers who used false social security numbers to get jobs. Thomas says, " Arizona courts are not bound to follow the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in a matter of interpreting a federal a statute."

The federal and state statutes are very different. The federal identity theft law is now limited to those who knowingly stole another person's social security number.

It does not consider whether or not you know the identity you are given is stolen and it is the statute the sheriff and county attorney use to enforce illegal immigration laws as well investigate employee sanctions. Thomas says, "It's a law that was written in a functional way to deal with identity theft in an array of circumstances including illegal immigration."

It is also a law some critics say is flawed. The county attorney is prepared for a fight. He admits, "I would expect defense attorneys to challenge out identity theft laws based on the Supreme Court ruling today but those efforts should fail."

While the county attorney does not think the ruling will have much impact on stateprosecutions, federal cases in the Valley will have to follow the Courts' decision.