If you are facing state of California or federal allegations of credit card fraud, the consequences of a conviction may be devastating and life-altering. In this situation, you should waste no time in availing yourself of the services of experienced criminal defense lawyers who can maximize your chances in the courtroom.

At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we have deep experience in handling credit card fraud cases and in winning our clients the best possible outcome to their case. You can rely on us for all the legal expertise you will need, but it also helps if you learn as much as you can about the process yourself to clear up confusion and help you know what to expect next.

Here is a basic overview on credit card fraud in California:

What is "Credit Card Fraud?"

California Penal Code Section 484, subsections e through j, outlines the definition, varieties, and sentences for credit card fraud under state law. Both credit and debit cards are included and referred to as "access cards." 

Forging an access card, altering it, stealing it, or illegally accessing or disseminating a card number and other pertinent information about an access card are all forms of credit card fraud.

Additionally, using one's own access card that has expired or been canceled or knowingly spending beyond the available credit limit/balance can also be considered credit card fraud.

Here are the particular crimes covered by subsections e through j of statue 484:

  • Subsection e covers stolen credit/debit cards or stolen account information. It deals with unlawful possession of any access card.
  • Subsection f deals with forging of access card data, whether by altering an existing card or creating a new one.
  • Subsection g covers knowingly using any fraudulent access card or fraudulently obtained account information.
  • Subsection h deals with retailer credit card fraud. This happens when retailers knowingly use/accept a fraudulent card or take payment for transactions for which no goods/services were rendered.
  • Subsection i covers counterfeiting of credit cards, often involving specific types of machines and creation of incomplete cards that will be filled in later with bank logos, numbers, and other data.
  • Subsection j bans the publication of access card information without the consent of the account owner and with intent to defraud another.

Possible Punishments

The exact punishment that applies to a credit card fraud case will depend on which subsection the alleged act violates, but in most cases, something at least very similar to one of the following three sentences will apply:

  1. Forgery: This generally covers the manufacture/sale of fraud access cards. As a misdemeanor, it can be punished by up to 12 months in county jail and a fine of $1,000; as a felony, it is punishable by 16 months to 3 years in county jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
  2. Grand Theft: This is punished the same as forgery and usually applies to theft of amounts over $950.
  3. Petty Theft: Fraud for $950 or less is usually petty theft and is punishable by a maximum of 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

Additionally, if credit card fraud is committed on government property or across state lines, there will be even heavier fines and up to 20 years in prison under federal law, besides any punishments issued under California state law.

Elements of the Crime

To prove beyond doubt that you committed credit card fraud, the prosecution must demonstrate the following:

  • That you made, possessed, used, or intended to use a fraudulent access card or account information.
  • That you did not have permission from the account holder to access funds if the card belonged to someone else.
  • That you knew the card was invalid or that you lacked sufficient balance to make the purchase if the card/account were your own.
  • That you acted with intent to wrongfully deprive another of money or goods/services of value and to benefit from an undeserved gain.

Defense Strategies

At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we use a variety of defense arguments to defend against charges of credit card fraud, including the following:

  1. The card holder had previously given his/her permission for the defendant to access the account.
  2. There was no fraudulent intent. It may be you were unaware your own card had recently expired or that you thought another person would have allowed you to use their card.
  3. It was a case of mistaken identity. The true perpetrator may have succeeded in keeping himself "behind the scenes," while the defendant has been framed or become the victim of circumstantial evidence.
  4. There is simply not enough evidence to convict on. For example, the prosecutor may not be able to show that a defendant received prior notice of his card being canceled before attempting to use it.

Related Offenses

Other offenses that may be charged along with or instead of credit card fraud include:

  • Identity Theft: This means illegally obtaining personal information and "impersonating" another in order to defraud them of their property. 
  • Internet Fraud: It is a federal crime to commit fraud over the Internet. Fraudulently online purchases, online sale of fraudulently obtained goods, or selling "credit card making" equipment online are examples.
  • Mail Theft: If information used for credit card fraud is obtained by stealing mail, a punishment of one year in jail and a maximum $1,500 fine could apply.
  • Conspiracy: If you conspired with one or more others persons in any way to commit credit card fraud, additional punishments will apply.

Contact Us Today for Help

At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we can give you the best possible defense against charges of credit card fraud in California. Our intricate knowledge of the state penal code and of local Los Angeles courts, judges, and prosecutors gives us the edge in winning for our clients.

If you or a loved one are facing allegations of credit card fraud in the L.A. or Southern California area, do not hesitate to contact us 24/7 at 424-333-0943 for a free consultation and quick attention to your case.