United States Sentencing Commission


Identity theft is a serious crime that affects countless individuals in the United States. The United States Sentencing Commission has conducted a comprehensive study on the application and impact of mandatory minimum penalties specific to identity theft offenses. This article provides key findings from their research, shedding light on the prevalence and consequences of identity theft in the federal system.


The study, based on data from fiscal year 2016, compares the use of mandatory minimum penalties under 18 U.S.C. § 1028A, which carries a two-year minimum sentence, with identity theft offenses that do not have mandatory minimum penalties. It also examines the effects of these offenses on the Federal Bureau of Prisons population. Comparisons are made to the Commission’s previous report in 2011 to highlight changes and trends.

Key Findings

Mandatory Minimum Penalties for Identity Theft Offenses

  • Identity theft offenses account for a small percentage (1.6%) of federal offenders sentenced in fiscal year 2016.
  • Section 1028A offenses represent 7.2% of offenses with mandatory minimum penalties in the same year.

Increasing Use of Section 1028A Penalties

  • More than half (53.4%) of identity theft offenses were convicted under section 1028A, showing an increase from 21.9% in fiscal year 2006.
  • Aggravated identity theft offenses under section 1028A also increased as a portion of all offenses with mandatory minimum penalties.

Longer Sentences for Section 1028A Offenders

  • Offenders convicted under section 1028A receive longer sentences (51 months on average) compared to those convicted of identity theft offenses without mandatory minimum penalties (22 months on average).
  • Even when receiving relief from the mandatory minimum penalty, offenders convicted under section 1028A still have longer average sentences than those without mandatory minimum penalties (32 months compared to 22 months).

Role of Other Charges and Plea Decisions

  • The majority (88.7%) of section 1028A offenders were convicted of at least one other felony offense.
  • Some offenders (11.3%) were convicted under section 1028A alone but necessarily involved another uncharged and unconvicted federal offense.
  • Offenders convicted under section 1028A and another statute receive longer average sentences than those convicted only under section 1028A.

Multiple Counts and Racial Disparity

  • Most section 1028A offenders (89.2%) are convicted of a single count, and concurrent sentences are often imposed for additional counts under the statute.
  • Offenders convicted of multiple counts under section 1028A receive longer average sentences than those convicted of a single count due to additional offenses.
  • Black offenders are disproportionately affected by section 1028A penalties, representing a higher percentage of offenders compared to other racial groups.


The United States Sentencing Commission’s study provides valuable insights into the application and impact of mandatory minimum penalties on identity theft offenses. The findings highlight the increasing use of section 1028A penalties, longer sentences for offenders under this section, and the role of other charges and plea decisions. Additionally, the study sheds light on the racial disparity in the enforcement of section 1028A penalties. These findings contribute to a better understanding of the challenges and consequences associated with identity theft in the United States.

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