Facing credit card fraud can be unsettling to both you and your family. Credit card fraud crimes are common and serious offenses. So, when you face a credit card fraud charge in California, you must act quickly and seek the legal services of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Given the potentially harsh penalties, immigration consequences, and other life-changing consequences of a conviction. You risk spending an extensive jail term, paying fines, and reimbursing the victim. Therefore, you need to use every possible advantage at the courthouse.
At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we have a track record for defending our clients facing credit card fraud cases in Los Angeles, CA. Our legal experts have deep experience evaluating credit card cases and developing a solid defense for your case.
Credit Card Fraud Crimes Laws in California
Attempting or using a credit or debit card unlawfully is a criminal offense. The law is against unlawfully using the information on a credit or debit card. You will not face conviction for credit card fraud unless the prosecutor proves your intent to commit the fraud. Your intent is fraud when you possess or use unlawfully obtained credit cards to inflict losses on the cardholder.
Credit card fraud includes obtaining another person’s credit card and using it without their knowledge or consent. You can also face conviction for the crime when you use a credit card with the knowledge the credit card is expired or revoked. Also, using stolen credit cards to access goods or services is a crime.
The law is against altering, forging, disseminating, counterfeiting, stealing, or publishing credit card information. The penalties for the crime vary based on the type of fraud in question and the defendant's criminal convictions. Usually, the law punishes the credit card offense as forgery, grand theft, or petty theft.
Common Forms of Credit Cards in California
If you are a holder of a credit card, the chances are high that you will become a victim of credit card fraud at a certain point in your life. With the increase in e-commerce and online payment activities, crime is increasing. The following are the common forms of credit fraud in California:
Stolen Credit Cards – California PC 484(e)
Under the statute, the law is against acquiring, selling, or transferring credit cards without the owner's consent. When you steal a credit card, you face either grand or petty theft charges based on the circumstance surrounding your case.
When the defendant transfers or sells a credit card without the owner’s consent with the intent to defraud the card owner, the court charges the defendant with grand theft. The defendant is guilty of petty theft when they retain or acquire the credit card to defraud or transfer the information without the cardholder's consent.
You may also face charges for grand theft when you acquire access to the card for more than four people without their consent. Under this case, the court can charge grand theft as either a felony or a misdemeanor. When you have a misdemeanor, you serve county jail for up to 12 months. A felony charge will attract a jail term of up to three months.
Publishing Credit Card Details
You face a misdemeanor charge when you publish another person's credit card information. Publishing the information involves oral communication, computerized communication, or writing credit card details of a revoked, canceled, or nonexistent credit card to defraud. The crime attracts a county jail term of at least 12 months.
Counterfeiting Credit Card – California PC 484(i)
In California, counterfeiting a credit card involves creating credit cards without the issuer's consent. Also, counterfeiting credit cards consists in using another person's details to create a credit card without their consent with the intent to commit fraud.
You face a misdemeanor charge when the court finds you guilty of possessing incomplete credit cards without the issuer's consent. In cases where the defendant engages, authorizes, or facilitates modifying, changing, varying, altering, or making credit card information to bill a transaction, the court charges you with forgery. The law punishes forgery as either a misdemeanor or a felony in California.
It is a misdemeanor to possess an incomplete credit card to perform fraud. California PC 484(i) covers possessing, making, designing, or trafficking equipment used in making a credit card intending to counterfeit a credit card. The court punishes the offender with either a felony or misdemeanor charge based on the defendant's previous convictions and the situations surrounding the case.
When charged with a felony, you face a jail term of 16 months up to three years. When a misdemeanor, you remain behind bars for a period not exceeding six months. The court may also require you to engage in community service when you engage in fraudulent selling or making of incomplete credit cards.
California PC 484 h – Credit Card Fraud by a Retailer
Since you can use a credit card to pay for services or goods at a retail shop that uses credit cards, the retailer may transfer, retain or obtain someone else's credit card details and use them to perform fraud. A retailer may be guilty of the crime in many situations.
If a retailer accepts payment for services or goods from a credit card they acquired through fraudulent means, they become guilty of theft. The court can charge you with grand theft if the services or goods value exceeds $950. If the value of the goods or services is below $950, the court can charge you with petty theft. A petty theft attracts a six months jail term.
According to California PC 502.6(a), you face a misdemeanor charge if you intend to scan a device to access, obtain or read information from a credit card without the cardholder's consent. The misdemeanor charge attracts county jail for up to six months. When the court finds you guilty of using a device to access the credit card information, the court may decide to forfeit or destroy the device.
California PC 484(g) – Using Credit Card in a Fraudulent Manner
The crime is outlined under California Penal Code 484(g). The law is against using a credit card or an account fraudulently. When you use a credit account or card with altered information or an expired card with the intent to obtain services or goods, you become guilty of theft. When the value of the goods exceeds $950, you become guilty of grand theft.
Credit Card Forgery – California PC 484(f)
To forge a credit card, you alter, design, or make a credit card to defraud the holder. Forgery also involves signing against the name of another cardholder without their intent. Also, faking a credit card is another form of forgery of a credit card.
Under California laws, forgery is a wobbler. The prosecutor may file the case as either a felony or misdemeanor. A misdemeanor charge carries a 12 months jail term. Alternatively, a felony charge attracts three years jail term.
Sentence and Punishment for Credit Card Fraud
The law classifies the crime of credit cards as either grand or petty theft or forgery. The sentence and the punishment are based on the nature of your crime and your past criminal records. Therefore you want to work closely with your criminal defense attorney to help you fight the charge. The attorney will also guide you and ensure you obtain the best case outcome.
If you are an immigrant and face credit card fraud, the crime might adversely affect your immigration status. For example, you might be deported from the US. The conviction also makes you inadmissible to the US. Many crimes which mark a defendant as inadmissible are aggravated felonies. The court considers your case to decide whether to charge you with a felony charge. When the offense is an aggravated felony, it attracts adverse effects on your immigration status.
Expungement of Credit Card Conviction
Like many criminal offenses in California, a credit card conviction is entitled to expungement. But it would help if you met numerous conditions before you qualify for the expungement process. For example, you must complete your probation and jail term. Even when you violate the terms of your probation, you can still qualify for the expungement.
Note the expungement of your criminal records depends on the criminal court's discretion. Ensure you work with your criminal defense attorney to help you know whether you are eligible for the expungement. Also, the attorney will help you learn the benefits of expunging your criminal records.
How are Credit Card Crimes Investigated?
Investigating credit card crime can be challenging since the prosecutor relies on the person reporting the fraud. Due to the advancement in technology, many fraud crimes go unnoticed. Credit card holders often report suspicious card activity or lost credit cards. The court temporarily freezes the account when the cardholder reports their credit card as stolen or lost. Once a transaction is made, the investigating officers can trace the transaction to apprehend the suspect.
Professional experts have modern tracking devices to trace any activity carried out on a credit card. The federal trade commission is responsible for investigating credit card fraud, although the entity leaves many investigations to local and state authorities. Also, the US secret service offers extra-legal support for the investigations to state and local governments.
Why You Require Legal Help
Any criminal charge can greatly affect your future. When convicted, your criminal record can be assessed by the general public, employers, landlords, or any company performing background checks. So, the conviction might affect your reputation and creditworthiness. Therefore legal help is necessary to obtain the best outcomes for your case and minimize the potential of facing harsh penalties.
Although you might feel confident to represent yourself, you require the services of a well-skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney. A criminal defense attorney understands the legal system better than you. Remember, the attorney has handled many similar cases. So the experience with the attorney will help you develop the best defense strategy to help you fight the credit card fraud charge.
In addition, the attorney knows the best ways to gather sufficient evidence. Note evidence is crucial in every case. The attorney will not leave out any essential evidence during the evidentiary hearing.
The attorney will also address any issues on alternative sentencing, like community service based on the situation of your case. If you do not have the financial ability to pay for your attorney, the law requires the court to appoint one attorney for you. However, when you choose to employ an attorney, ensure you take the time to hire the best criminal defense attorney.
The statute of Limitation
Every case in California comes with a statute of limitations. The law of limitation is the period you should file a case against the defendant. The statute of limitation protects the defendants from being charged with crimes they committed long ago.
Under California law, the statute of limitation for credit card crimes is seven years. If you do not know the statute of limitation for filing your crime, ensure you seek legal help from your criminal defense attorney.
Legal Defenses to Credit Card Fraud
When facing charges for a credit card, your defense lawyer has various strategies they may employ to defend you. You want to work with a well-skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney. The attorney will help determine and develop the best defense strategy. The court may dismiss or reduce your charges by employing a proper defense. The possible defenses against PC include:
Lack of Intent
You want to possess the fraudulent intent to face conviction. Fraudulent intent involves deceiving a victim by ensuring they depend on your false statement to deprive them of property or money. You may outline that you committed the crime by mistake. You may also commit the crime out of ignorance but with no fraudulent intent.
For example, you may attempt to pay for your shopping using an expired credit card. The cashier then sues you for attempting to commit credit card fraud. You may defend yourself by arguing you had forgotten to renew your credit card and did not want to use an expired credit card.
Credit card fraud is rarely witnessed, primarily online or behind closed doors. It becomes difficult for law enforcement officers to identify the culprit. Most people fall victim to mistaken identity. When falsely accused, you don't have to worry. You can argue the crime was committed by someone else.
You may face false accusations of credit card fraud. False accusations mainly occur among people who once shared a close relationship. When the relationship breaks, your friend may accuse you of jealousy, revenge, or anger. For example, your former spouse may accuse you of credit card fraud as a means of returning to you. If you have enough evidence to prove the false accusations, you cannot face conviction for credit card charges.
You Were Forced to Commit the Crime
Sometimes, you may commit credit card fraud under duress. Duress allows you to prove a lack of intent in committing the crime. For example, a person may threaten to kill you to make you commit credit card fraud. You may defend yourself by claiming that you had no intent to commit the crime. You may also argue that you did not commit the crime intentionally but were under duress. The prosecutor may dismiss your case if you have enough evidence for duress.
Lack of Sufficient Evidence
For you to face conviction for credit card fraud, the prosecutor wants to prove all the elements of the crime. Even when the prosecutor can prove you had fraudulent intent, this is not enough to convict you. For example, when you are guilty of using an expired credit card, the prosecutor wants to prove you were aware the credit card was expired.
If you use a suspended card to withdraw the money, you may face charges for the crime. However, when the credit issuer had not informed you about the suspension of your card, you may use the defense and argue that you did not know the credit card was suspended.
Entrapment occurs when law enforcement officers compel you to commit a credit card crime you could not have committed. As per California laws, law enforcement officers want to be professional in their duties.
It is criminal for the officers to provide incentives to encourage you to commit a crime. Due to their desire to arrest someone, the officers may compel you to commit the offense. If the officers encouraged you, you might use entrapment as a defense to have your charges reduced or dismissed.
Out of Necessity
You may use necessity as a defense when you commit a crime due to an emergency to prevent bodily harm to yourself. Again, you may use it if you believe your actions were necessary to save the situation.
When successful, necessity helps you to prove a lack of intent. To use the defense, you need the help of an attorney. If you admit to committing the offense, then explain your actions. Your lawyer can easily convince the jury your actions were necessary compared to the alternative.
Other Related Offenses to Credit Card Fraud
Several crimes are related to credit card fraud. The prosecutor may charge the related Offenses alongside credit card fraud. The related Offenses include:
Identity theft refers to deliberately acquiring someone's details and using them unlawfully without the owner's consent. When charged with credit card fraud, you could face additional charges for identity theft.
The elements of identity theft are highlighted below:
Personal Identifying Details
The following are several personal identifying details that may be used for identity theft purposes. The information includes:
- The victim's birth date, phone number
- Drivers license number
- Passport number
- Birth or death certificate details
- Bank account, banking pins, and credit card numbers
Willfully Acquire Illegal Purposes
To prove identity theft, the prosecutor must prove your illegal plans of obtaining personal information. The activities which may demonstrate criminal intent include taking goods and property.
The Element of Fraud
The prosecutor wants to prove your willful acts of obtaining unfair advantages to cause the victim to sustain a loss.
Penalties for Identity Theft
The crime is a wobbler as per California laws. The following are the penalties you face:
- Informal probation
- Custody in county jail for one year
- Immigration consequences for noncitizens
The defenses you may apply to defend yourself against the charges are lack of willful acts, false allegations, lack of intent to defraud, and mistaken identity.
Burglary PC 459
As per California laws, burglary refers to entering a structure, whether a residential or commercial property, with the intent to commit a felony.
Elements of The Crime
To face conviction for a burglary case, the prosecutor must prove the following:
The prosecutor wants to prove that you entered a structure. For example, using a flashlight through the victim's open window or door proves entry.
The prosecutor wants to prove your intent to steal or commit any felony within the building. The prosecutor may prove your intent to steal by claiming you possess burglary tools like pliers, blow torches, crowbars, etc.
Penalties for Violating PC 459
You face conviction depending on whether you commit first or second-degree burglary. For first-degree burglary, the penalties include serving in prison, followed by parole.
Punishments for second-degree burglary include serving in county jail for one year for a misdemeanor conviction. For a felony charge, you serve in jail for two years.
Your defense lawyer may use the following defenses to defend you in court. It was a mistaken identity, mistaken belief, lack of intent, or you had the owner's consent to take the property.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
When you face a credit card fraud charge in Los Angeles, CA, the consequences might be detrimental. Do not attempt to fight the criminal charge on your own. But you want to seek legal help from a competent criminal defense attorney. The attorney will investigate your case and help you develop a strong defense to fight the charge.
At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we are here to help you. We handle all the different types of credit card fraud crimes. Contact us today at 424-333-0943 and speak with our competent criminal defense attorney. We also offer free case evaluation and consultation.