SCOTUS: Making Up Fake ID That Turns Out to Be Real Not Identity Theft


Ours is an age on ever-increasing criminality — not that we commit more crimes, but that so many of our actions have been redefined as more serious offenses. Who thinks, for instance, that teens sending naked pictures of themselves to their friends is child pornography? Zealous prosecutors, apparently. And Lord knows in New York you can get busted for nearly everything.

But there have been some reversals. Troublesome abortion protests are no longer prosecuted under racketeering statutes. Cops have been told to stop arresting us for taking pictures of landmarks. And today the Supreme Court ruled that if an illegal immigrant makes up a social security number and it just happens to be someone else’s, he shouldn’t be charged with aggravated identity theft, as happened to Ignacio Flores-Figueroa in a lower court. “As a matter of ordinary English grammar,” said Justice Stephen Breyer in his opinion, “it seems natural to read the statute’s word ‘knowingly’ as applying to all the subsequently listed elements of the crime.”

We hope Jonathan Mattocks, whose conviction on felony charges of “criminal possession of a forged instrument” for using a bent MetroCard to get a free fare was recently upheld, is encouraged by this to take his case further up.