I swear she's innocent!
August 29, 2006 11:57 AM   Subscribe

How do you clear your name of criminal charges after identity theft? And how could these charges have been incurred?

My friend and I were down in Tennessee this weekend from Toronto. She was pulled over for speeding on the freeway and was told she was going fast enough to be automatically ticketed. Fine enough.

The patrol officer took her license back to the car where he sat for a very long time. He asked her to get out of the car, and this is where things took a strange turn.

Her driver's license showed up with a warrant for her arrest in Ontario -- drug trafficking. My friend has never been arrested for anything, never bought drugs, never even had a speeding ticket until that day. The cop was on the phone with the police in Toronto and asking her about things which happened when she was a child (1991) or living in BC (2001). The police in Toronto finally mentioned that my friend's wallet was stolen last October, and eventually we were allowed to leave after two hours standing separated on the I75 (though not until the car was sniffed by a dog and then searched since drugs were apparently detected -- it was a rental car). We managed to get home without further incidence.

So how does she get rid of this warrant for her arrest? And how does she protect herself from further problems? When her wallet was stolen, she did everything you are supposed to do (got new identification, contacted the credit companies and bank, reported the theft to the police, etc.) but there is still someone out there using her identity to commit crimes.

And how did she end up with a warrant for arrest for drug trafficking? Credit card or bank fraud we can understand, but drug trafficking? How does someone go about doing that? Why wouldn't the Toronto police just show up on her door?
posted by Felicity Rilke to Law & Government (8 answers total)
Talk to a lawyer?
posted by cellphone at 12:01 PM on August 29, 2006

Sounds to me like a mistake and there isn't a warrant out for her arrest. Wouldn't the police officer take her in instead of letting her drive away? Was none of this clarified at the time?

How did you get over the border?

I'd suggest calling the RCMP and then a lawyer if necessary.
posted by ODiV at 12:07 PM on August 29, 2006

Your friend's name is probably now listed as an alias of a drug trafficker who was caught with her ID card. I would complain heartily to whatever office was on the Ontario end of that phone call, if that can possibly be determined, and demand that her name be removed completely from whatever awful list it's on.

Local TV news desks, in the U.S. anyway, love identity theft stories; this one certainly has a twist. That could work to her advantage if faced with bureaucratic indifference.
posted by Doctor Barnett at 12:25 PM on August 29, 2006

Response by poster: They waved us through at the border without checking our i.d. As for letting her drive off, the officer in Tennessee was convinced (after talking with my friend and the police in Toronto) that the warrant, though issued for her name, is in fact connected to someone else who is simply using her identification. It wasn't explained how the real drug trafficker operated.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 12:27 PM on August 29, 2006

Something similar happened to my uncle. Thirty years go, he had his ID stolen by some biker who bought a gun and then robbed a liquor store in Florida. My uncle knew nothing about this until two years ago when he bought a house in Florida. When he went out to the cop car that had been parked across the street to identify himself as a new member of the neighborhood, he was shocked to be tackled, knocked into a trashcan, and arrested at gunpoint for all his new neighbors to see.

My uncle went to a lawyer and then to the local news station. That seemed to clear things up pretty quickly.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 1:17 PM on August 29, 2006

When someone stole my identity and ran up $5000 in phone calls to Argentina, all I had to do was send the phone company a notarized affidavit swearing it wasn't me and that I knew nothing about it. (I became aware of it when a collection agency began harrassing me aggressively at work.)
posted by scratch at 1:29 PM on August 29, 2006

Your friend is not the first. Maybe she could get a movie deal too, if she plays her cards right... ;)
posted by coriolisdave at 2:55 PM on August 29, 2006

Count yourself lucky. A similar story happened to a very unlucky friend of mine. A traffic ticket he paid in the US turned into a warrant for his arrest citywide, then statewide, and eventually it ended up on the immigration database as the payment wasn't recorded properly.

He then goes to the US several years later for a visit (he's now a Canadian citizen). Said visit turns into a 7 day stay in a Detroit prison. US won't hand him back his passport. He's reported it stolen (by the US authorities) and Canada won't send him a new one (for now...) Several thousands of dollars with a lawyer got the charge cleared up in a couple of days. The other few days were spent because his Canadian SIN was typed in the computer as a US SSN and it happens to match the SSN of a US citizen in a completely different state that just got an arrest warrant (I believe the warrant happened while he was in jail). Several paperwork exchanges that took many overnight days led to the rest of the 7 days he spent in prison.

His option, if he didn't want to fight it with a lawyer, was to contest the warrant (or something like that). Within about 30 days (!!) he would be transported from the Detroit prison to the Colorado prison (IIRC it was Colorado). He could then speak with judges there and access the records to prove the warrant was incorrectly administered. Then he'd be freed in Colorado and would get to make his own way back to Canada.

He did mention that since so many people in the prison are muslim they don't serve pork. And that people who are allergic/against certain foodstuffs get peanut butter sandwiches (I wonder what they do for people with peanut allergies? Egg salad or tuna I suppose...) The food isn't bad and the commissary has ridiculously cheap stuff to buy.

He will no longer travel to the USA. I wonder why...

(Be assured, this person has so many other life stories you will always feel better that things are going well for you... I could tell you about the time he was stuck in an airport because the discount carrier "Didn't feel that there was any value in running the return flight due to too few passengers").
posted by shepd at 7:51 PM on August 29, 2006

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