California credit card fraud encompasses several acts of fraud, including credit card theft. The following is a list of specific acts:
1. PC 484e Stolen Credit Card
2. PC 484f Forging Credit Card Information
3. PC 484g Fraudulent Use of Access Card or Account Information
4. PC 848h Retainer Credit Card Fraud
5. PC 484i Counterfeiting Credit Cards
6. PC 484j Publishing Credit Card Information
Penal Code section 484e, which is the code section for stolen credit card, prohibits the selling, transferring or acquiring a credit or debit card of another without their consent. This also includes credit card information.
It may surprise you to know that the card or card information does not have to have been used in order for you to be charged with a crime. All that is required is that you were fraudulently in possession of the card or card information, and that you intended to use it. Further, even if the card is expired, you may still be charged with a crime. If the card was once issued legitimately but is now expired, does not relieve the person in possession of the card from prosecution.
This type of charge is typically charged as Grand Theft and is a wobbler, meaning it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. The District Attorney, when deciding whether to charge it as a felony or misdemeanor, will take into consideration the details of the specific incident, and any criminal history of the accused.
If convicted of PC 484e, the penalties, depending upon whether a felony or misdemeanor, may include the following:
1. A conviction for felony 484e may include probation and up to one year in jail, or, if the circumstances were more serious, could include 16 months, or two or three years in state prison. A fine of $10,000.00 may also be imposed with a felony conviction.
2. A conviction for misdemeanor 484e may include up to one year in County Jail and a maximum $1,000.00 fine.
In some circumstances, being in possession of someone else’s credit or debit card or card information, may be filed as a petty theft. This may be applicable in a situation where you somehow acquire and keep the card or card information with the intent to use, transfer or sell the information but end up not doing so. This may fall under California Petty Theft Laws. The punishment for a conviction of petty theft is up to six months in County Jail and a $1,000.00 fine.
As noted above, there are several instances that may result in a violation of California’s credit card laws, which accounts for the different punishments that may be imposed. However, most credit card frauds are prosecuted and punished as forgery or theft offenses. The amount associated with the theft will determine whether the punishment will be for grand theft or petty theft.
There are legal defenses to credit card theft; some may include: 1) There was no fraudulent intent; 2) There is insufficient evidence to support the allegations; and 3) There is some mistake in the identity of who actually committed the theft or use of the stolen card(s).