The Los Angeles County District Attorney and City Prosecutors have been utilizing more of their recourses during the past several years to fight white collar crimes such as credit card fraud and identity theft. People who find themselves accused of using a friend’s or stranger’s credit card or financial information to obtain goods or services fraudulently without the owner’s consent are being charged with serious crimes. While some credit card fraud cases involve one individual accused of unlawfully spending a victim’s money, some cases involve multiple defendants utilizing complex credit card fraud schemes.
MAXIMUM PENALTIES IF CONVICTED OF CREDIT CARD FRAUD/THEFT
Penalties for fraudulently using another person’s credit card information to make purchases can be serious, depending upon the facts of the case and the amount of monetary loss the victim suffers. It is important to hire a skilled and passionate criminal defense attorney as your advocate when facing misdemeanor or felony fraud charges in Los Angeles or Pasadena, California.
Under California criminal law, there is a wide range of penalties for credit card fraud and a number of different charges that can be filed depending upon the facts of the case and the amount of monetary loss. Oftentimes, credit card fraud will be charged as grand theft, forgery, fraudulent use of an access card, or petty theft.
As a felony, forgery and grand theft carries a range of 16 months, 2 years or 3 years in jail or prison with a fine up to $10,000.
Petty theft is a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 6 months in jail and a $1000 fine. For example, if the defendant is accused of spending $950 or less when fraudulently using another’s credit or debit card, the charge will be filed as a misdemeanor petty theft.
Depending upon the accused’s criminal record and the type of charges filed, a felony charge may be reduced to a misdemeanor and sometimes a misdemeanor fraud or theft filing may be resolved with diversion (deferred entry of judgment), which if successfully completed, results in a full dismissal of the charge. Proposition 47 which was recently passed, has converted many theft offenses that were once possible felonies down to straight misdemeanors.
EXAMPLES OF CREDIT CARD FRAUD CRIMES
To prove an accused committed the offense of credit card fraud, often times the prosecutor or DA will attempt to prove:
- That the accused fraudulently (i.e., with intent to defraud) obtained, took, signed, bought, used, sold, or forged someone else’s credit or debit card information, OR
- The accused used his or her own credit or debit card knowing that the card was revoked or expired or that the account did not have sufficient funds to pay for the items charged, OR
- The accused sold goods or services to another, knowing that the credit or debit card used was obtained illegally or was being used without the owner’s authorization.
DEFENSES TO CREDIT CARD FRAUD CHARGES IN LOS ANGELES
If charged under California Penal Codes 484e, 484f, 484g, 484h, 484i, or 484j, there are several possible legal defenses that must be investigated and considered.
Lack of Intent to Defraud: an accused will have a defense if the prosecutor cannot prove that the accused committed the act with the intent to defraud. If you did not realize that the card was stolen or that there was a lack of authorization, then you can not be guilty of the crime of fraud.
Lack of Sufficient Evidence: If a prosecutor fails to prove beyond a reasonable doubt even one element of the offense charged, you cannot be convicted of the crime. For example, if you wrote a check for $100 to a store and it bounced because you did not have enough money in your bank account to cover it, the prosecutor must prove you knew that you did not have the funds at the time you wrote the check. The prosecutor must prove you had notice of the lack of funds. If there is reasonable doubt as to this element then the evidence is insufficient to convict.
Wrong person (mistaken identity): As in all crimes, sometimes an innocent person is arrested and charged for a crime due to unreliable eye-witness identification or the false accusation by another. Many credit card and check fraud crimes are conducted outside the immediate presence of the victim, so grainy videos and unreliable witness statements can sometimes lead investigators to arrest the wrong person.
Criminal Defense Attorney Ann Gottesman is Experienced in Fighting Credit Card and Grand Theft Charges.
Attorney Ann Gottesman has been successfully representing those charged with felony and misdemeanor theft offenses in Los Angeles County for almost ten years. She thoroughly investigates each case and is dedicated to obtaining the best possible results for her clients. If you or a loved one needs a caring and experienced criminal defense attorney, call Ann Gottesman for a free and confidential consultation.