The law makes it a crime to use a credit card that is stolen, has no money, or to accept payment from a credit card that one knows it is stolen. Many laws are designed to regulate the use of credit cards, and any unethical use will lead to a criminal offense that attracts severe penalties. Sometimes a person may not know that they are being paid with a stolen credit card or they have been given a bad card to use. This can land an individual in serious problems that can damage their reputation in addition to other penalties. If you are facing credit card offenses, you need to hire a lawyer to offer a defense on your behalf. At The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm, we have extensive experience in dealing with fraud cases and will be able to fight for you to a favorable outcome.
Overview of Credit Card Fraud Laws
Various laws have been drawn to deal with multiple aspects of credit card fraud, attracting different penalties. Below, we discuss the various penal codes and what they consist of with regard to credit card offenses.
Under this penal code, it is a crime to steal a credit card belonging to another person or the information of the card. It further states that it is unlawful for an individual to:
- Transfer, sell or take a credit card from another person without their permission or consent
- The individual does this intending to defraud another
Additionally, the penal code makes it a crime when:
- A person takes possession of a credit card information belonging to another without their knowledge or permission
- The person takes the information to use it fraudulently.
Under this statute, it is a criminal offense for one to come up with false credit card information or to forge information for a credit card. Particularly, the statute indicates that:
- Any individual that makes, designs, embossed or alters a counterfeit credit card or attempts to alter it will be prosecuted for forgery
- Any individual aside from the holder of the card or an authorized person by the holder whom, with the intention of defrauding signs another person’s name to the card, sales draft, slip or any instrument used in payment and there is evidence against them for using the card for a transaction, will be charged with forgery.
Some of the illegal deeds a person can do according to this statute are:
- An individual, while trying to buy something online and needs to deceive the retailer, will alter the number of the card
- When a person produces a fake credit or debit card to defraud a retailer of some goods
- While making grocery purchases, a person signs their friend’s name instead of their own
This statute makes it a criminal offense for a person to use another person’s credit card without their knowledge. The law states that fraud happens when a person uses the card for personal or selfish gains through deception. There are various ways a person can commit this offense. For instance:
- When a stolen credit card is used to buy clothes or other personal effects
- When a lady takes an expired card and buys or attempts to buy a phone with it
- When a person steals information for a credit card and uses the data for online shopping
This statute talks about when a retailer is involved in credit card fraud. The law makes it a crime for a retailer to:
- Accept payments through a revoked, fake or stolen card while knowing its status
- Gives fraudulent transaction as evidence to receive payment for goods that were never transacted
This statute makes it a crime for an individual to:
- Counterfeit or forged credit cards
- Design, possess, produce, or distribute a machine for making credit cards.
The statute expressly states that:
- It is a misdemeanor offense for an individual to be in possession of a credit card that is incomplete to complete it without the knowledge of the issuer.
- An individual will be found guilty of forgery when they alter, make, change, vary, or modify one or more parts of a credit card with the intention of defrauding. It also makes it a criminal offense for any person to give permission to another to make changes to a card for purposes of using it fraudulently. Some people can also alter the information in a credit card such that any purchases made using it are charged to another person. This is also a criminal offense, and the person or persons guilty will be charged with forgery.
- Any individual that makes, designs, distributes, or has in their possession incomplete credit cards and a card making-machine to be used to complete the cards is guilty of a misdemeanor. If convicted of this offense, the individual would be sentenced to one year in county jail.
For instance, a person that changes their credit card account number to that of their friend or modifies the expiration date on their card is guilty of this offense. Having a credit card machine in your possession is also a criminal offense that one can be prosecuted for under this statute.
Under this statute, it is a crime for an individual to publish information regarding credit cards, which includes passwords and pin numbers. The law means that it is illegal to communicate with others orally, in writing, or through computer information on credit cards.
For instance, when a person sends another email detailing the numbers of various credit cards that are stolen, it is an offense. It is also a crime to pick and write down information regarding another person’s credit card and giving it to another person to use it fraudulently.
Possible Legal Defenses
When one is facing credit card fraud charges, hiring a criminal defense lawyer is your best chance of fighting against the allegations. Your lawyer can come up with strategies to assist in your defense and case of wrongful allegations, to help you get the case dropped. Some of the defense strategies your lawyer may use include:
- The defendant had no intention to commit fraud
- The police had no probable cause
- The search and seizure into the defendant’s premises was unlawful
Lack of Fraud Intentions
The law specifies that a person is guilty of this offense if their actions were intending to commit fraud. An individual when he or she uses deception or a trick to benefit at the expense of the other person that is a fraud. In your defense, your lawyer will try to show that you used no tricks or deception, and neither did you have intentions to defraud the person. For instance, when a person uses another person’s credit card by honest mistake, they are not guilty of fraud.
Lack of Probable Cause
In the constitution, the fourth amendment states that before the police detain or arrest you, they need to have or show probable cause. If a defendant was arrested for a violation of credit card fraud with no probable cause, evidence obtained might not be used against them. When the evidence is excluded, there is a high chance of a reduction of the charges or a dismissal altogether.
Illegal Seizure and Search
The constitution once again protects its citizens from unreasonable seizures and searches as stipulated in the fourth amendment. Law enforcement officers are not allowed to conduct unreasonable searches and seizures. Due to this, an individual can resist unlawful searches and insist on a search warrant. Evidence that has been gotten through this can be challenged in court by your lawyer.
Penalties for Credit Card Fraud Offenses
When a person is charged with violating PEN 484e, they are accused of the offense of grand theft, which is a wobbler in California. This means that depending on the circumstances of the case, one can face felony or misdemeanor charges for this offense. If one is convicted of a misdemeanor, they will be faced with the possibility of jail time in county prison for not more than three years.
A violation of PEN 484f is a wobbler offense also. Charges brought against a defendant are those of forgery. If convicted of a misdemeanor, the defendant may be jailed for not more than a year in county jail. On the other hand, a felony conviction will mean a county jail time of not more than three years.
When one is accused of violating PEN 484g, they face petty or grand theft charges. Petty theft charges are prosecuted as a misdemeanor with a sentence not exceeding one year in county jail. A felony charge, on the other hand, is more severe in the punishment with the defendant facing a maximum of three years imprisonment.
If you are guilty of violating PEN 484h, you will be prosecuted in either a felony or misdemeanor charges. When found guilty of the offense, the penalties are similar to those of PEN 484g violations.
Violations of PEN 484i are also prosecuted as wobbler offenses. A felony conviction is the most severe punishment with the defendant facing a possibility of three years in prison.
PEN 484j violations are prosecuted as misdemeanor offenses. If found guilty of the offense, a defendant faces a possible six months of county jail imprisonment.
Immigration Consequences of Credit Card Fraud
When one is convicted of the offense of credit card fraud, it may result in negative consequences for a person seeking immigration. The laws on immigration in the United States state that some criminal convictions may result in:
- Deportation of non-citizens
- Branding a non-citizen as inadmissible
When a person is convicted of committing an aggravated felony, he or she becomes inadmissible or deportable. Regarding the various credit card offenses above, some offenses depending on the circumstances can be prosecuted as felonies, and a guilty verdict will mean a felony conviction.
Expungement of your Credit Card Fraud Record
If one has been convicted of any of the above credit card offenses, he or she can apply for expungement as long as they fulfill certain conditions such as:
- Completion of their probation term successfully
- If they were jailed, successful completion of their sentence
Although having completed your probation successfully gives you the best shot at getting your record expunged, a person that has violated their probation can also get an expungement.
However, this is at the discretion of the judge.
According to PEN 1203.4, any person is allowed to apply to have their record expunged. This is as long as they fulfill the conditions and terms in their sentences. Expungement is not always automatic; however, one has to convince the judge, and it is at their discretion to grant or deny the expungement.
Personal Gun Rights After a Conviction
According to the law, a convicted felon loses their right to own or buy a gun. This means that your rights to a firearm are negatively affected. This, however, happens to individuals that are convicted of felonies in credit card fraud and not misdemeanors.
Related Offenses to Credit Card Fraud
Various offenses under the law can be charged instead of or alongside any of the above-described offenses. Here, we shall discuss these offenses and how they relate to credit card fraud.
PEN 530.5 Identity Theft
According to PEN 530.5 statute, identity theft is when a person takes information identifying another person to use it fraudulently without their consent. This statute prohibits four kinds of this offense. These are:
- Intentionally taking the information that identifies another person without their permission for unlawful purposes. Some of the unlawful reasons for stealing another person’s identity are for obtaining money, goods, credit, service, medical details, or property.
- Obtaining and keeping the identity of another person for the intention of committing a fraudulent offense
- Transferring, selling or providing identifying details belonging to another person without their consent to commit fraud
- Transferring, providing, or selling details that identify another person with the knowledge that the information will be used for fraudulent purposes.
Some of the personal identifying information that can be used for fraudulent deeds include:
- Social security and tax I.D numbers
- Names, addresses, birth dates, telephone numbers or any other contact details
- Employee or school I.D numbers
- Passport numbers and information as well as driver’s license details
- Information on a credit card, bank accounts or additional financial information
- Death and birth certificate information therein
There are many areas that one uses another person’s information for their benefit. Some of these areas include:
- Internet fraud – with the age of online shopping, this has become increasingly common. A person can steal the identity of another to purchase goods online. This is mostly done by the use of stolen credit cards as outlined in credit card fraud laws. A person can hack another person’s email address to carry out fraudulent activities violating laws on false personation.
- Identity theft is also used by individuals that are looking for a mortgage or loans. They use the information belonging to another person to obtain a loan or buy a house.
- One can also steal another person’s identity when they sign a check using their name. This is also a violation of PEN 470 on forgery.
- Identity theft can also be used to steal the social security number in order to collect welfare or insurance benefits belonging to the victim
- When a person is intending to commit a crime, using another person’s date of birth and name.
When one is charged with the offense of identity theft, it is a wobbler offense. A felony conviction will attract a county jail time of not more than three years. Additionally, the defendant may be ordered to pay a cash fine, not in excess of $10,000, or either. A misdemeanor offense, on the other hand, will result in jail time not exceeding a year in addition to a cash fine of $1,000. If the circumstances around the case make it a federal offense, you are likely to be jailed for 30 years in federal prison.
There are various defense strategies for this offense. Some of these will include:
- The defendant never used the information for unlawful reasons
- The defendant had no criminal intentions
- The defendant was mistakenly identified, and the accusations are based on falsehoods.
Pen 459 – Burglary
Burglary, as defined under this statute, is when a person enters a commercial or residential building intending to steal or commit a felony. When one enters a structure with a criminal intent regardless of whether it happened or not, it is burglary.
Some instances that would be described as burglary include:
- Breaking into a home that belongs to other people to steal items from the home
- Entering a house belonging to a lady to rape her
- Going into a bank with a fake or forged check to commit check fraud
When a person is charged and convicted of first-degree burglary, felony penalties are severe. The probable consequences include state imprisonment for two or four or six years.
If one is charged with second-degree burglary, the offense is a wobbler meaning the defendant can be prosecuted on felony or misdemeanor charges. If a conviction is on felony charges, they face a county jail sentence of sixteen or twenty-four or thirty-six months. A misdemeanor conviction, on the other hand, attracts a one-year county jail imprisonment.
With an experienced lawyer, various strategies can be applied to fight the allegations. Some of the defense strategies your lawyer may use include:
- The defendant had no intention to commit a crime when they entered the building or house
- Whatever items the defendant wanted to steal or stolen belonged to them, and they had reason to believe they had a legitimate claim over them.
- Lastly, the defendant is being falsely accused of the crime or is being mistaken for someone else.
PEN 502 – Accessing a Computer without Authorization
Under this statute, it is a criminal offense for an individual to access a computer belonging to another person without their consent. This is a critical aspect of internet fraud in California. Accessing a computer to obtain data or information without permission is an offense under the Comprehensive Computer Data Access and Fraud Act. Even when one does not use the information to obtain property or defraud another illegally, it is a criminal offense to access a computer without authorization.
Some of the acts that constitute violating PEN 502 include:
- A student accessing the school’s database to erase grades or certain records
- When an employee gets the password of their human resource manager and uses it to access the employee's database to change the settings and increase their pay
- When a person writes a computer virus and spreads it across various platforms
A violation of PEN 502 is prosecuted as a wobbler offense. The penalties for the infringement vary based on the particular law violated by the defendant. If the violation is grave, the defendant will be charged with a felony offense, and when the violation is less severe, it becomes a misdemeanor.
If convicted of a misdemeanor, the penalties for this offense are a county jail time not exceeding one year or by a fine of not more than $5,000. When convicted on felony charges, the defendant can be sentenced to sixteen or twenty-four or thirty-six years of imprisonment. Additionally, the defendant may be asked to pay a fine of $10,000 or less.
Cybercrime offenses are severely punished in California to discourage potential offenders from committing the offense. With the advancement of technology, a lot of business or economic activities take place online, making it tempting and lucrative for possible offenders.
However, various people may have done nothing wrong but can be trapped by this law. The concept of cybercrime is relatively new. This means that many people continue to do things they used to do without knowing they are unlawful. When faced with allegations of accessing a computer without authorization, there are several defense strategies your lawyer can use. These may include:
- Your actions had no intention, and you did not know what you were doing was unlawful
- The accusations leveled against you are unsubstantiated or wrongly accused
Find a Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer Near Me
Credit card fraud is a severe offense in the state of California. A conviction of any of the crimes attracts severe penalties to the defendant. The consequences of the crime are also severe if one is convicted. Sometimes these allegations can be false, yet without proper legal representation, you may not be able to fight them. At The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm, we are experienced to fight for you against these charges. Should you need further guidance, get in touch with us today at 310-935-1675, and we will be happy to represent you.