Year: 2018

How is DNA Profiling Used in California?

In 1953, the double helix, the twisted-ladder like structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (“DNA”) was discovered by scientists James Watson and Francis Crick. DNA is a self-replicating material present in all human beings as the main part of their chromosomes. This material is important because it carries an individual’s unique genetic information.

DNA profiling was originally developed as a method to determine paternity. It was used to link a parent to a child. It was first used in court in 1986 during a criminal trial to exonerate a 17-year-old teen who  confessed to two rape-murders in England. The DNA tests proved that the actual attacker was someone else, not the teen. Even though the teen confessed to both rape-murders, he was exonerated because they were able to prove that it was not his DNA found at the crime scene or on the victims.

In the United States, the first use of DNA profiling to support a conviction occurred in 1987 in Orange County, Florida. Tommy Lee Andrews, was convicted of rape after DNA tests matched his DNA, from a blood sample, with that of semen traces found in the rape victim.

What is DNA Profiling?

DNA profiling was considered a breakthrough in forensic science. For the first time, law enforcement was able to use technology to identify an accused person and link or connect that person to a crime based on the presence of genetic material at the crime scene. This same genetic material can also be used to exonerate an wrongfully-charged person. Practically, it can support a not-guilty verdict in a criminal case, as was the case with the English teen, or can be used as the basis of overturning a criminal conviction.

No two people, with the exception of identical twins, have the same DNA. Approximately 99.9% of the human DNA sequence is the same for every person. The remaining .01%, and the matter most valuable to a forensic scientist, is different in every person. DNA profiling creates a map of the .01% of a human’s DNA that is different. A unique identifier is established to connect the matter to a person and enable law enforcement to connect a person to the crime scene.

Charged With a Felony or Misdemeanor in Los Angeles?

The Law Offices of James E. Blatt has two convenient locations in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area in Beverly Hills and Encino. Call us toll-free at (877) 546-2528 24/7 to speak to a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney today. At the Law Offices of James E. Blatt, we have been committed to providing our clients with the best possible criminal defense in every type of criminal case. We provide zealous representation and make recommendations on how best to resolve your criminal case.

If you are under investigation by state, federal, or international authorities or have been arrested for a misdemeanor or felony offense, seek legal representation from the Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys.


Money Bail Abolished in California

In late Summer 2018, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a landmark criminal justice bill, Senate Bill No. 11, abolishing cash bail in criminal cases. California is the first state to abolish the cash bail system in criminal cases. Beginning in October 2019, the law now gives judges the discretion to decide who is released on his or her own recognizance or who must remain in custody pending a plea bargain or trial following an arrest for a criminal offense, whether misdemeanor or felony. The new law can be found here.  

Up until the law was passed, accused defendants had to buy their release from jail through a bail bondsman or with cash. Now, individuals will be released after arraignment with no bail, on their own recognizance or under supervised conditions.

Hailed as a victory for criminal justice reform advocates, the elimination of cash bail was one of many criminal justice reforms passed by the outgoing Governor Brown. Opponents of cash bail systems argued for years that the cash bail system disadvantages the poor and overcrowds jails with defendants accused of minor offenses. Judges must now determine who is a public safety threat or a flight risk when making custody determinations.

Bail Schedule Abolished

Bail in California used to be established according to a fixed bail schedule published by Los Angeles County or other initiating law enforcement agencies. Judges considered the charge and the defendant’s prior criminal record and used that information to determine a cash bail amount.  The judges had no discretion in setting bail. They were required to set bail according to the schedule. If the defendant was unable to pay cash bail, he or she was able to hire a bail bonds person who would pay the cash bail for a fee.

New Risk Assessment System to be Established

When the new law goes into effect in October 2019, judges will determine bail as follows:

  • Individuals charged with a non-violent minor or misdemeanor charge, if considered a low to medium risk, will be released 12 hours after they are arrested and booked, before they see the judge for an arraignment. No cash bail will be imposed. The individuals will be given a date to appear in court for their arraignment.
  • Individuals considered medium to high risk and who are accused of committing a violent offense or are repeat offenders, will remain in custody (jail) until a bail hearing or trial. No bail will be set, especially if the defendant failed to appear in court before. To make their assessment, judges will consider the accused person’s criminal history and nature of the offense.

Charged With a Crime in Los Angeles?

If you have been arrested or under investigation for a criminal offense in California, whether state, federal, or international, seek the knowledgeable and experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys to assist you.

At the Law Offices of James E. Blatt, we are committed to providing zealous representation of our client’s best interests. Our attorneys have been involved in every type of criminal defense, from misdemeanors to felonies to complex international prosecutions. We successfully represent clients in the investigation, plea bargain, trial, and appeal stages in state, federal, and international court.

Proudly serving the greater Los Angeles metro area, along with Beverly Hills and Encino, the Law Office of James E. Blatt is available to begin legal representation immediately following an arrest. Speak to a lawyer now. Call toll-free at (877) 546-2528 to request a confidential consultation right away.


The Hertzberg-Alarcon California Prevention of Terrorism Act

California legislators recognised the need to combat terroristic threats, more specifically those where biological, nuclear, WMDs (weapons of mass destruction), radio-logical and chemical agents could be used in perpetrating such actions. As these weapons could place Californians in great peril, Governor Gray Davis signed the Hertzberg-Alarcon California Prevention of Terrorism Act on September 28, 1999.

With specific punishments that include automatic life in prison, it is important to familiarise yourself with HACPTA, its sanctions, and what penalties could be imposed for merely “pretending” to have the capacity to wipe out an entire state.

Specifics Addressed in This Act

According to California legislature, manufacturing, possessing, threatening to use, or transferring various gas, nerve, or explosive agents designed to cause injury or death to mass groups of people is an offence punishable with up to nine years in state prison. Those who have been previously convicted may serve up to 15 years in prison.

Persons possessing biological agents such as bacillus anthracis (anthrax), rickettsia, coccidioides immitis, South African hemorrhagic fever viruses, and toxins like diacetoxyscirpenol may be fined up to $250,000 or imprisoned for up to 12 years, or both. This includes the deliberate use or threatened use of commercial or industrial chemicals as weapons against animals or humans, and specific attacks that cause damage to food, crops, and seeds.

Those who successfully deploy these weapons against persons shall be punished by life in prison; if those weapons cause death to one or more persons, the sentence is enhanced to life without parole.

Emailing or faxing plans for weapons of mass destruction is punishable up to one year, but is enhanced to two years if receiving such plans induces fear.

Why Punishments are so Harsh

Terrorist threats have divided not only California, but our nation, since the events that transpired during 9/11. Even with heightened airport security and tougher immigration laws, terrorists are not only attempting to destroy us from the outside, but from within.

To help curb these crimes, the Act makes possessing, using, and selling these weapons both a state felony and quite possibly a federal charge if done on government property or if agents are launched at government properties from afar.

Defenses to Crimes Under this Act

As with all crimes, criminal defense attorneys will raise numerous meritorious defenses in their clients’ cases. Prosecutors must prove, beyond a doubt, that possession of such weapons was for the sole purpose of causing mass destruction, to induce fear, to embezzle, or to perform other criminal acts.

Defense attorneys will note that their client:

  • Did not know the agent was on a banned substance list;
  • Had no intention to email or transmit via facsimile plans to create such weapons;
  • Lived with a person who actually possessed these items; and
  • Was nowhere near the weapon when it launched.

Successful defenses may dismiss charges or lessen them to misdemeanors. Material evidence and witnesses will be cross-examined to discredit potentially false or misleading information presented by the state.

Terrorist threats are serious charges in California, punishable by death in some scenarios. If under investigation for possessing or using weapons with banned substances, contact James E. Blatt immediately.


What Happens if I Fight Extradition Back to California?

If you have been charged with a serious felony like homicide in California, but have moved to another state, the prosecutor and judge in your case may approve extradition back to California to face charges. Fighting extradition may or may not have benefits depending on how you look at things.

Should your loved abscond justice, and you are wanting to help them make the right decision, we will discuss both the pitfalls and positives in waiving or fighting extradition to California.

Determining Whether Crimes are Extraditable

California, like 47 other states, follows the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act (UCEA) which states that any person wanted on charges can be held in any U.S. locality until the receiving state (California) decides to expound time and resources to pick the wanted person up. Only Missouri and South Carolina have not adopted the UCEA but may have their own rules on extradition.

In deciding whether fugitives from justice should be extradited, California will consider:

  • Distance from California in relation to seriousness of offense;
  • Costs involved including paying personnel, fuel, lodging and food;

Note that California will generally pick up fugitives in any state for murder or similarly high offenses.

Waiving or Fighting Extradition

By signing a waiver of extradition, fugitives forgo their right to fight being captured in another state. From there, California has 30 days to arrange transport back to the county that charged the fugitive. Each day spent in custody after waiving extradition gets credited toward the offence which the fugitive will face.

Should a fugitive fight extradition, a court date will be established to hear arguments why the defendant should not be returned to California. If the crime is a lower felony or misdemeanor, a bond may be issued, which allows the fugitive to go free until their hearing.

If the court determines just cause exists to return the fugitive back to California, a Governor’s Warrant will be signed and the person being returned will be transported within 90 days. Note that whether it takes 10 or 80 days, none of that time goes toward the underlying offence which the fugitive will face back home.

Should I Fight, or Just Come Back?

There are no “cheat sheets” used by county prosecutors or judges to determine whether they’ll request your return back to California, but there are several factors of which you should be mindful:

  • Misdemeanor crimes are generally not worth the resources required to extradite if the defendant is over 500 miles away;
  • Low-level “wobbler” felonies and those deemed non-violent may, too, not be worth the county’s time and money unless the prosecutor really, really wants you;
  • The longer you run, the harsher you may be treated upon your return;
  • Extradition from Arizona to California, because it is a bordering state, may be imminent regardless what level of crime you face;
  • County jail overcrowding, availability of guards or police assets, amount of money required to bring you back home and the likelihood you will waive extradition are other factors used to determine whether you will be returned.

Due to California extradition time limits mandated by UCEA, decisions are often made quickly.

Yes, an Attorney can Represent You From Afar

If you are living in another state, and the prosecutor decided to charge you with some crime committed months or years ago, extradition back to California could happen if your whereabouts are known. You will then need to decide whether you will accept the extradition request, or fight it in the county in which you have been detained.

Each case for which extradition is possible is based on its own merits. No two decisions are ever the same. With criminal defense working for you back in California, you may receive a bond. You can then return to California yourself, allow your attorney to resolve the case in absentia, or go with what they suggest. Fighting or waiving extradition may have positives; your attorney will know.

Either way, take your potential extradition seriously.


Federal Prison Population Buildup Could Spell Early Release

Over the last three decades, the United States has quietly increased its federal prison population by unprecedented numbers. In fact, from 1980 to 2015, the inmate population skyrocketed from 25,000 inmates to roughly 205,000, growing an average of 5,900 inmates each year.

This increase is attributable to the elimination of parole, sweeping reform to Federal Criminal Code, making more state crimes also federal offenses, and the growing number of first-time offenses subject to mandatory minimum sentences.

Could growth both in state and federal prisons spell early release for some non-violent criminals? The answer resides somewhere between Congressional action, and the creation of programs aimed at lowering the recidivism rate.

Underlying Issues Contributing to Growth

Early indication from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) shows that the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) must meet numerous challenges due to this increase in the inmate population.

According to GAO, BOP reports that:

  • Inmates at higher risk of committing violence in prison are being grouped with lower-risk victims in double and triple bunking arrangements;
  • The benefits drug and education programs can provide inmates are not being realized due to long waiting lists, which puts inmates on “idle” status. Extended idleness can threaten institutional security and lower recidivism rate;
  • Few meaningful work opportunities are also contributing to inmates remaining idle too long;
  • Overcrowded visiting rooms means some inmates are denied visitation, creating another threat to inmate and staff security; and
  • Inmates are outnumbering staff by larger numbers as each year grows, causing staff to work exhaustive hours. This also reduces inmate-staff communication, which is vital in deescalating threats to inmate security.

Federal prison overcrowding also taxes BOP’s infrastructure that, by design, is meant to control smaller prison populations. Also, as facilities age, maintenance intervals increase with it, driving up costs of building upkeep.

Options for the BOP

Expanding federal facilities seems like an easy fix to an age-old problem. However, there are more creative ways to address overcrowded prisons other than creating more room to lock people up.

The BOP has reported long-term success with cognitive-behavioral programs, community-based drug treatment programs, and vocational programs designed to prepare inmates for work upon release. These programs are viable options for prisons facing high recidivism, but fail to address the bevy of new inmates entering the system for low-level charges.

Private prisons are another option Congress is kicking around, although these for-profit lockups are more likely to offer less reform since these private companies are incentivized to keep inmates longer.

One possible option could be increasing the credit-time given to inmates with lower security levels, or putting these inmates on electronic monitoring when they are within 90 days of release. Reworking the Federal Criminal Code to lessen sentences may also be an option worth exploring, although getting bipartisan support may require more work than it is worth.

Using probation or other alternative sentences more frequently could also reduce BOP strain, even if that means increasing the frequency with which defendants visit their probation officer.

Overpopulation is the Oldest Conversation Topic

People are talking about state and federal prison overpopulation every year, although little is done to curb increases. Helpful programs are there, as are alternative sentences. It is up to judges, prosecutors, and criminal defense attorneys to come to an agreement so first-time offenders can correct their actions and avoid reoffending.

It is unknown how many low-level inmates are battered, or killed, each year. What is known is that prison overcrowding must be addressed before the staff-to-inmate ratio spirals out of control, making federal correctional facilities the least likely place to reform an offender’s actions.

Facing federal charges? James E. Blatt fights cases to get them dismissed. Based on his past case results, persons facing serious jail time continue retaining him for his superior level of representation.


Appealing DUI Convictions in California

Being charged with and then sentenced for DUI ends the prosecution’s case – at least in their eyes. Sometimes, however, the trial court gets things wrong. In other cases, the state steps outside its legal limitations to sentence or convict you.

When certain parts of your DUI conviction do not add up, or numerous procedural errors exist, offenders are within their constitutional rights to appeal their sentencing. It is the duty of your trial lawyer, or perhaps another you retain, to handle the appeals process. This quick guide shows how that process may work in California.

Sentencing Appeals

Hiring an experienced, well-versed and highly aggressive DUI attorney for your appeal goes without saying, especially since writing the Supreme Court of California takes specific lingo, case law references, and understanding of DUI laws.

Upon receiving all court case notes, all police reports and everything else from your original case, your attorney will look for.

  • Legal mistakes which, if taken to trial, could have affected the outcome
  • Typographical errors missed by court clerk when filing the final sentencing order
  • Misinformation that led presiding judge towards inaccurate sentencing
  • Failing to follow Supreme Court regulated sentencing guidelines

Appeals Process

DUI attorneys have tight time constraints, which means doing your part, when asked, will speed up the process. Here are the steps (not in any order) that will occur during your DUI appeal:

  • Attorney will file notice in open court that you are appealing the final outcome, which will generally happen shortly after you have been sentenced.
  • Then, attorney will gather your record of proceedings from the clerk, otherwise called a transcript. Anything else relevant to your appeal will also be levied in this examination.
  • After carefully reviewing all information and finding enough errors to contest, your DUI attorney will prepare a written brief, or detailed statement which merits your sentencing getting overturned.
  • DA will file their written brief in rebuttal, stating why your sentencing should be upheld.
  • Once Supreme Court has all literature, judge(s) will convene to settle your case for good.

After this process is complete, the Supreme Court will come back with two decisions based off their findings, historic cases similar to yours and common law. Those are:

  • Sentence affirmed. This means that nothing was discovered to be erroneous, and your current sentence stands. This decision is usually firm, and not appealed again.
  • Sentence remanded to trial court. This means enough erroneous information in your DUI sentencing hearing, or throughout the entire process, was found and the case – or parts of your sentence – are remanded to trial court (original court) where judge must provide an ethical, legal, and wise outcome. It can not be identical to the current one. It is possible that judges make mistakes, which opens doors for the appeals process to begin again.

Appeals making their way up through the system have taken years to finalize, which means the sense of urgency in hiring your current DUI attorney, or at least on with knowledge of DUI appeals, is vital.  Rarely have defendants on their own written appeals in California which were decided favorably.

Choose wisely when something important like appealing convictions could erase your record, lighten your sentence, or provide relief from excess fees.

Need to appeal your conviction of DUI? James E. Blatt works hard to get cases dismissed for procedural error. Contact a superior Los Angeles DUI defense attorney today.


California Kidnapping Laws and Defenses to Kidnapping

Under the California Penal Code, moving an individual a substantial distance by force, or fear, is considered kidnapping. Once an innocent person is transported across state lines, the charges can escalate to federal level, which will then involve the U.S. Marshal’s Office and other cooperating agencies.

It is common for people to report persons are kidnapped without knowledge if the individual has not called home for some time, or went across state lines willingly. That is why California law specifies the fine line between willful and unwilling.

What Does California Consider “Kidnapping”?

One violates California law by taking an individual against his or her will and moving that person a substantial distance by use of fear or force. Threatening to use physical force or actually inflicting physical damage to secure an individual is enough to prove the element of “force and fear.”

Performing the same actions by fraudulent means, to an individual at or under 14 years of age, by using a ransom method, or by carjacking an individual qualify the above to be elevated to aggravated kidnapping charges.

Because aggravated kidnapping is considered a strike in California, persons found guilty could receive five years to life imprisonment with 85% served. “Simple” kidnapping is a felony punishable up to eight years in prison.

California laws on kidnapping and false imprisonment are severe enough that an attorney must work doubly hard to get charges lowered or dismissed.

Parental Kidnapping Laws in California

Parents can be charged with kidnapping their own child, which is another serious crime in California. Called “noncustodial detainment” or child abduction, it is a crime to detain or prevent a custodial parent access to a minor child. It is punishable by up to one year in county jail, or up to three years in CDC, with fines and restitution possible.

To prove a noncustodial parent willfully attempted to withhold the custodial parents’ children or child away, malicious intent must be proven. Returning a child to their legal guardian or parent within a reasonable time after the scheduled pickup time may not be considered kidnapping.

Defending Kidnapping Charges

Although prosecution needs only prove an individual feared for his or her life and your detention of that person, plenty of defenses exist that could exonerate persons accused of kidnapping. For example, if an individual willfully sat inside your car, and you took off, reckless endangerment may be more appropriate. Or, if the person being kidnapped later testified that he or she wanted to be with you, those charges would get dropped.

In parental kidnapping cases, having no custody order in place would save you from kidnapping. Acting in good faith that detaining a child for their own good may also provide a defense to the unlawful detainment of a child.

Accusations of kidnapping may ruin an individual’s parental, work, and interpersonal life forever. It is important to retain counsel who knows the elements necessary to discount the state’s attempt to label you a kidnapper.

James E. Blatt helps persons wrongly accused of violent crimes like kidnapping by fighting until the case is dropped, charges are lowered, or until the jury exonerates his client. Contact his office immediately to exercise your right to counsel


How to Defend Against Tax Fraud

Investigations into tax fraud may lead to charges being brought at either the state or federal level, depending on the severity and amount allegedly in question. Should you find yourself under California or IRS investigation, it is important to know what laws and rights apply to your situation.

Not all tax evasion, fraud, or similar federal crimes are purposeful; mistakes can happen, identities can be stolen and used against innocent people and, in rarer cases, IRS workers could be complicit to tax fraud without the knowledge of the filer.

Here is what you should know, and do, if you are under investigation for tax fraud.

Evading vs. Avoiding

There is an obvious yet fine line between avoiding income taxes, and completely evading tax laws. One is actually legal under most circumstances, while the other is not.

Minimizing tax liability through legitimate deductions is commonplace. Not filing tax returns when the federal minimum is not met is also well within a U.S. citizen’s rights. These actions, along with filing extensions or payment plans, are all legal parts of the American tax system.

Evading tax liability by not filing returns, claiming residency in states where one does not reside, and making false claims or statements are methods used to evade taxes, which is both a California Penal Code and IRS crime.

Penalties for Tax Fraud

The mere act of providing false or fraudulent information on tax paperwork is punishable by imprisonment in CDC or the county jail for one year, along with fines at or less than $20,000, or in some cases both the fine and imprisonment will be assessed.

It becomes a federal charge in several scenarios. First, if the intention was to defraud the government of money, one could receive stiff fines and federal prison time. Secondly, an individual could face an array of wire fraud, embezzlement, and theft charges if he or she works in government and alters, defaces, or attempts to benefit from fraudulent tax documents.

Defenses to Tax Fraud

To prove tax fraud, state and federal prosecutors must furnish information that:

  • The defendant knowingly and willingly provided false information to circumvent the IRS tax system;
  • The statement or return was purposely false; and,
  • The defendant knew the information they provided was false.

Providing accidentally incorrect information, without intentionally defrauding the government, is one defense a tax fraud attorney may raise. It is far more difficult to prove intent unless the defendant directly benefited from the false tax information.

Retain an Expert Tax Fraud Attorney

When freedom is on the line, and you are willing to prove the tax errors were innocent mistakes, an attorney must be retained for your protection. Consider superior representation an investment into your future freedom – one that you should not delay in making.

Cases that head to trial require planning. Investigating the tax return, looking over financial records, polling witnesses, and working toward amicably resolving (or dismissing) your case take time. Head into court without expert counsel, and most tax fraud cases will end unfavorably for innocent defendants.

Attorney James E. Blatt offers results-driven representation in tax fraud, evasion, and similar IRS crimes. Contact his office immediately to schedule a sit-down with one of California’s premier attorneys.


Penalties for Unauthorized Computer Access in California

Part of California’s internet crime laws address unauthorized computer access, which is defined as taking control of another’s network, their personal computer, or computer data without permission. According to California Penal Code, mere access alone is punishable without anything being stolen.

Let us look closer at state laws against unauthorized computer access and what punishments are possible if convicted.

Crimes Against Property (Larceny)

Unauthorized computer access is considered a crime against property, or larceny, in California. Any individual who gains access to a personal computer, government or private network, laptop, tablet, or other digital medium to perpetuate theft or other crimes against public policy, or uses the same to cause damage, is guilty of larceny.

Note that an individual need not take money or cause damage under this statute to be convicted of larceny. All the state must prove is intent.

For example, an individual’s email is considered private, even in a marriage. So, if a wife suspects her husband is having an extramarital affair, and knows enough about his password to guess any remaining letters or numbers, she has just committed unauthorized computer access.

Certain subsections of Section 502 are considered “wobbler” offenses, which are charged either civilly or criminally.

Punishments for Unauthorized Computer Access

Depending on whether data is taken or access led to monetary loss, punishments can include up to three years in prison, fines, and restitution. Federal charges are possible if access threatened national security, happened on government grounds, or to government computers.

First offenses that led to no losses fall under California’s infraction law, punishable through fines up to $1,000.

If the crime led to monetary loss over $5,000, or is a second offense, the infraction becomes a misdemeanor or felony punishable up to one year in county jail, along with fines and restitution, or three years in CDC and a $10,000 fine.

Altering, stealing or deleting data is an automatic criminal charge considered a “wobbler” offense, punishable with up to three years in prison.

What Must be Proven?

Prosecution must prove beyond a doubt that not only was access to a physical or host computer unauthorized, it was done with malicious intent. It takes matching one’s IP address to their physical street address to prove remote access crimes, or physical proof one entered another’s home, email address, or computer without permission.

Gathering that evidence is no small order. Maybe an employee granted access to an individual, but forgot after the fact. Perhaps accessing the computer was to prevent another’s suicide or avert similar tragedy; that would take away an element of maliciousness.

Protect Your Legal Interests

It takes enough evidence to persuade a jury of your innocence to either compel a prosecutor to drop the case, or lower charges significantly. In proving your innocence, an experienced criminal attorney need only prove your intentions were sincere.

Remember, fighting any criminal case where unauthorized computer access is alleged without counsel could put you in harm’s way. It is important to consult with professionals knowledgeable in California Penal Code to prove your innocence.


Is Credit Card Fraud a Felony in California?

Prohibited activities involving access cards, which many are accustomed to calling credit cards, are punishable in several ways in California. The extent of the fraud will determine whether a felony or misdemeanor is charged, and will also determine what potential fines and jail sentences are imposed.

Numerous schemes can fall under credit card fraud, all with varying degrees of penalties. Whether or not the crime is a misdemeanor or felony will depend on the amount taken, among other facts discussed below.

Felony or Misdemeanor

Using payment cards to perpetrate fraudulent activity can fall under six California Penal Code sections:

  • Stolen credit cards, 484e PC – Possessing, acquiring, transferring, or selling cards without another’s express written consent fall under this section.
  • Forging credit card information, 484f PC – Altering names or signing another’s name without permission can fall under this Penal Code section.
  • Fraudulent use of credit card, 484g PC – Attempting to use, or successfully using, an altered, expired, revoked, or stolen credit card to obtain goods or money would be charged under this section.
  • Retailer credit card fraud, 484h PC – Businesses that accepted stolen or altered credit cards, or turn in fraudulent credit card transactions could be charged with credit card fraud.
  • Counterfeiting credit cards, 484i PC – Possessing equipment to create credit cards, or possessing the newly created cards themselves is charged under this section.
  • Publishing stolen credit card information, 484j PC – Involves transferring one’s PIN or other identifying information in a manner that deprives them of use or takes their identity.

Because credit card fraud laws change frequently, it is important to have an attorney who can help clarify laws and perhaps get charges dismissed.

Punishment for Credit Card Fraud in California

If the amount taken is less than $950, it is normally a misdemeanor petty theft charge punishable with up to six months in prison, a fine, and restitution for the amount taken. Anything over $950 could be charged as grand theft, which can be a “wobbler” offense charged as either misdemeanor or felony.

Sections 484e, 484f, and 484i from above are wobbler offenses that go either way, normally indicative to the amount stolen. With section 484g, 484h and 484j, expect petty theft if amount was less than $950, and grand theft if over.

Because credit card fraud punishment in California also takes into account interstate frauds, federal charges may be imposed, too, which carry prison sentences up to 20 years.

Potential Defenses to Credit Card Fraud

Persons who have been accused of any section above must have committed the acts knowingly and willingly. For example, using counterfeit credit cards to purchase goods or request cash advances is innocent if the individual has no idea the card was counterfeited.

Using a roommate’s credit or debit card is also innocent if the cards look similar to the one owned by defendant, and it was picked up accidentally.

If you are unsure whether your alleged crime is a felony in California, and believe you are innocent of all charges, it is important to retain counsel immediately so charges can be disputed.

Been charged with fraudulent use of credit cards or other theft crimes, and believe your case deserves superior representation? Contact James E. Blatt today at 1-877-546-2528.