Credit card fraud is a form of identity theft that entails the illegal or unauthorized taking of another person's credit card information. The purpose of taking the card or the card information is to charge purchases to the account and remove funds from the account. A credit card fraud may occur physically if the defendant takes the actual card and uses it against the will of the owner. The fraud may also occur if the defendant takes only the numbers of the card, either from a card reader or from an unprotected website. Credit card fraud is a crime under California law and the associated penalties are detrimental. If you are facing credit card fraud charges, the Orange County Criminal Lawyer can help you come up with a good defense strategy.
Elements of Credit Card Fraud
You can commit credit card fraud in various ways. For instance, you may commit the crime if you take, obtain, sign, use, sell, buy, or forge another person's credit card or card information. You may also commit fraud if you use your credit card while knowing that the card is expired or revoked. If you use your credit card knowing that your account does not have enough money to pay for the items purchased, you may be guilty of committing fraud. You may also be guilty of committing a credit card fraud if you sell goods or services to another individual knowing that he/she is using an illegally obtained credit card.
Credit card fraud is a prevalent crime in California. To curb the crime, the state has adopted both federal and state laws to help fight the crime. California has set credit card laws that prohibit the illegal possession and use of a credit card or a debit card. The state also has in place statutes for the illegal possession or illegal use of credit cards. California has passed numerous laws to prevent credit card fraud and identity theft.
Federal credit card fraud laws mainly focus on interstate and foreign commerce. The federal laws make it illegal to use a fraudulently obtained credit card or a stolen credit card. Federal laws impose harsh penalties for credit card fraud including hefty fines of up to $10,000. Under federal law, committing a credit card fraud may earn you a jail time of up to 10 years.
Some of the specific statutes for different forms of credit card frauds in California include:
Stolen Credit Cards
The California PC 484e makes it an offense to sell or possess the credit card or the credit card information of another person without the consent of the person. It is a criminal offense under this statute to sell, transfer, or acquire a credit card without the consent of the owner. It must be evident that you illegally acquired the credit card with the intent to steal. You may also be guilty under PC 484e if you are in possession of another individual's credit card information without his or her permission. The prosecutor must prove that you possess the credit card information with the intent to defraud the credit card owner or the credit card company. In the context of the law, to defraud meant to trick or to try to trick a person or to pursue them using dishonest means.
If you violate the California PC 484e, you will have committed a crime of grand theft as outlined by the California Penal Code 487. Under California law, grand theft is a wobbler offense and you may get misdemeanor or felony charge. If the prosecutor decides to charge the case as a misdemeanor, the penalties may include imprisonment in a county jail for a period not exceeding one year. The prosecutor may also impose a fine that does not exceed $1,000.
If the prosecutor charges you with felony stealing of credit card or credit card information, the penalties may include imprisonment of up to 3 years in county jail. You may also have to pay a fine not exceeding $10,000.
Forging Credit Card Information
You may face charges under the California PC 484f if you forge or alter an existing credit card or you sign another person's name on a credit card without his/her consent. You may commit a credit card forgery if you alter a credit or debit card. If you create or counterfeit a fake credit card or debit card, you may be guilty of committing fraud. You may also commit card forgery by signing the name of another person during a credit card transaction without the consent of the person. For you to face fraud charges, it must be evident that you acted with intent to defraud. You knowingly and unlawfully alter, create, or use another person's credit card for your benefit and gain.
If you forge another person's credit card, the court will prosecute you under the California forgery law outline under PC 470. The crime of forgery is a wobbler according to California law. If the prosecutor accuses you of misdemeanor forgery of credit card, the penalties may include jail time of up to one year in county jail. You may also pay fines as directed by the court. For felony forgery of credit card, the penalties include imprisonment in California state prison for three years and payment of hefty fines.
Fraudulent Use of Credit Card or an Account
According to the California PC 484g, it is unlawful for a person to use a stolen, an expired, or a fake credit card to procure goods, services, or cash while knowing that the card is not valid. If you knowingly use an altered, stolen, forged, expired, or revoked credit card to obtain money, goods, services, or any other item of value, you may be guilty under PC 484g. You will only face charges under 484g if you have the intent to defraud and if you did not have the consent of the cardholder.
For fraudulent use of credit card, you will be guilty of petty theft as outlined under the California PC 484. However, if you fraudulently use a credit card and you receive items that exceed a value of $950, you may face grand theft charges according to PC 487. According to California law, petty theft is a misdemeanor punishable by jail time of up to six months in county jail. The offense is also punishable by a fine that does not exceed $1,000.
According to California law, grand theft is a wobbler offense; the prosecutor may charge the crime as a misdemeanor or felony. If the prosecutor assigns misdemeanors, the punishment may include imprisonment for up to one year in the county jail. You may also have to pay a fine that does not exceed $ 1,000. For a felony offense, the penalties include imprisonment for three years and a hefty fine of up to $10,000.
Credit Card Fraud by a Retailer
The California PC 484h outlines the crime of credit card fraud by a retailer. You may commit an offense if you accept payment via a revoked, stolen, or fake credit card while you know that the card is not valid. You may also commit an offense if you present false evidence of a transaction for you to receive payment for goods yet you are aware that no such transaction occurred. If you furnish money, services, or goods to an individual who gives you a credit card, which you are aware that it is expired, revoked, stolen, or counterfeit, you may face charges.
For retailers, it is against the law to present evidence of a credit card transaction and seek payment when you knowingly fail to offer goods, money, services or any other item of value. The retailer must have acted with an intent to defraud or to persuade someone or entity by dishonest means.
The penalties for an offense under PC484h will depend on the value of the property that the retailer receives. If a retailer carries out a credit card fraud and gets more than $950 within six consecutive months, the retailer will receive grand theft charges under California PC 487. The crime of grand theft is a wobbler and may get misdemeanors or felony charges. If the prosecutor accuses the retailer of misdemeanor grand theft, the penalties will include jail time of up to one year in county jail. If the prosecutor charges the crime as a felony, the retailer may get imprisonment in a California state prison. The imprisonment period may vary from 16 months, two years, or three years.
On the other hand, if a retailer commits a credit card fraud but receives less than $950 is a consecutive six-month period, the retailer will face petty theft charges according to PC 484 and PC 488. The crime of petty theft is a misdemeanor according to California law. The applicable penalties include imprisonment for up to six months and a maximum fine that does not exceed $1,000.
Counterfeiting Credit Cards
Under the California PC 484i, it is a crime to counterfeit credit cards. It is also an offense to possess, make, or traffic a credit card making machine. You may face charges if you are in possession of incomplete credit cards and you intend to complete the credit cards without the consent of the issuer. In this case, you will face misdemeanor charges.
You may also face charges if you change, vary, modify, or alter card account information or any part of an access card with intent to defraud. You may also be guilty if you consent to alteration or if you authorize the change, variance, or modification of access card information by another person. You will be guilty if you authorize the alteration of information in a manner that makes the transactions initiated by the access card to be billed or charged to another individual other than to the person to whom the card was issued.
You may face credit card fraud charges if you make, design, possess, or your traffic card making machine or equipment. You will also face charges if you are in possession of incomplete access cards and you intend to use the card making equipment to complete the access cards. This offense is punishable by jail time of up to one year in county jail.
Publishing Credit Card Information
Under the California PC 484j, it is an offense to knowingly publish or communicate credit card information with the intent to defraud a business or a person. Credit card information is diverse and may include personal identification numbers, passwords, and other private account information. Specifically, the statute under PC 484j makes it illegal to publish any information about a credit or a debit card, PIN, computer passwords, or bank account information. You should not publish such information with the intent to defraud a person or an entity. Acting with intent to defraud means you attempt to deceive or to trick another person or an entity by using dishonest means.
In the context of the law, publishing means that you communicate the information of another person either orally or in writing. You may communicate the information through television, radio, or through computer networks. Violation of the California PC 484j is a misdemeanor offense and the applicable penalties include jail time of up to six months in county jail. You may also have to pay a fine that does not exceed $1,000. Instead of jail time, the judge may recommend a summary or informal probation.
Common Legal Defenses to Credit Card Fraud Charges
With the help of a criminal defense lawyer, you can fight charges for credit card fraud in court. You do not have to accept every charge that the prosecutor brings against you. Some of the common legal defenses that you may use to fight the fraud charges include:
You had no Intention of Committing Fraud
You can only face credit card fraud charges if it is evident that you had the intent to commit fraud. Having a fraudulent intent entails using dishonest means to trick someone for financial gain. If you manage to convince the court that you did not intend to trick or deceive the victim, the court may be willing to reduce or even dismiss your charges. You may make an honest mistake, end up using another person's credit card, and only realize your mistake later. In this case, you may assert that the use of another person's credit card was not intentional by mistake.
The Law Enforcement Officers did not have a Probable Cause
Before arresting you and investigating you for a credit card fraud, the law enforcement officers must have a probable cause for doing so. According to the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the police must have a probable cause before detaining or arresting any suspect for a crime. If you feel that the police violated this law, you may base your defense on the violation. As long as it is evident that the police did not have a probable cause, any evidence obtained after the improper arrest is invalid and should not count. If the court excludes this evidence from your case, it may lead to a reduction or dismissal of your credit card fraud charges.
The Police Seized or Searched You Unlawfully
You may also fight credit card fraud charges if you feel that you are a victim of illegal search and seizure by the police. Still, under the Fourth Amendment, you have a right to be free from illegal seizures and searches. If you prove in court that the police obtained evidence from an unlawful and unreasonable search and seizure, the court may exclude such evidence from your criminal case. This means that the court may be willing to reduce or even dismiss your fraud charges.
You did not steal a Credit Card or Card Information
If you are facing charges under Penal Code 484e for stealing a credit card or credit card information, you may assert that no credit card was available. This offense only applies to credit cards and does not include stealing other items like cash or property. You may assert that even if you are guilty of stealing something, you did not steal a credit card or a debit card. This way, the court may charge you with a lesser offense than fraud.
You Committed the Crime due to Necessity
You may defend yourself by showing that you were in great need and this propelled you to commit the credit card fraud. This defense goes by the name guilty with an explanation. You may show that you stole a credit card because you had no other choice in the face of an emergency. For instance, you may have faced an emergency of an illness or any other pressing need. You attempt to prove in court that you had a sufficiently good reason for committing the crime.
If you are facing forgery charges for altering a credit card, you may defend yourself by asserting that you did not know. For you to face forgery charges under PC 4884f, you must have intentionally and knowingly altered or used another person's credit card for your benefit. If you manage to prove in court that you did not possess and that you did not act with this type of knowledge, you may be able to fight the forgery charges. For instance, you may have signed another person's name while carrying out a credit card transaction through a mistake. If you had no knowledge that you were committing fraud, you may fight the fraud charges in court.
You had the Consent of the Card Holder
To face credit card fraud charges, you must have acted without the knowledge and the consent of the cardholder. You may not face fraud charges if you can prove that the cardholder or the issuing company had given you the permission to use or possess the card. You may use this defense if you are facing charges under the PC 484g for acting without the consent of the cardholder. All that you have to prove is that the credit card owner agreed to your suspicious actions or purchases.
You were acting under Duress
You may also defend yourself by asserting that you committed a credit card fraud while acting under duress. Duress is a legal defense where you point out that another person made you commit the crime. The defense of duress is only applicable to limited situations in which an individual commits a crime. You can apply this defense to the crime of credit card fraud. You may say that another person threatened to kill you or inflict physical harm on you if you did not commit the credit card fraud.
You are not a Retailer
If you are facing charges under PC 484h that involve a commitment of a credit card fraud by a retailer, you may assert that you are not a retailer. You may only face charges under this statute if you are a retailer. In the context of this statute, a retailer refers to a person or a business that sells goods to the public. If you successfully show that you were not acting as a retailer at the time of committing the crime, the court may dismiss your charges.
Another individual may accuse you of committing a credit card fraud yet you are innocent. It is common for individuals and businesses to face prosecutions based on false allegations. For instance, a person may falsely accuse you of committing a credit card fraud out of jealousy, anger, or revenge. With the help of your attorney, you may prove a case of false accusation in court.
You did not Publish Credit Card Information
You may assert in court that you did not publish credit card information if you are facing charges under PC 484j. You may only face charges under 484j if you publish credit card information. California law defines publishing in detail. With the help of your attorney, you may show that your actions did not qualify or did not meet the definition of publishing.
Contact Orange County Criminal Lawyer near Me
If you are facing credit card fraud charges in California, the penalties can be devastating. Other than serving jail time or imprisonment, you may also have to pay hefty fines. Orange County Criminal Lawyer can help you come up with a proper defense for your case. Contact us at 714-262-4833 and speak to one of our lawyers today.