Like other white collar crimes, credit card fraud involves the unauthorized use of another person’s credit card, whether one has possession of the card or not. Regardless how much was spent, being accused of this crime could have serious residual effects, including loss of gun ownership rights, loss of employment, and extended periods of incarceration.
Defending charges of fraud by credit card takes an in-depth understanding of finance laws, and the willingness to dig deep inside the prosecutor’s case to learn the backstory.
How California Law Defines Credit Card Fraud
California’s evolving Penal Code, specifically Chapter 5, sections 484-502.9 covers the crime of larceny in its many forms. Except for provisions regarding leased property, anyone who ‘carries away another’s property without paying for it’ commits larceny. Let’s concentrate on section 484g, which outlines credit card fraud.
An individual who uses, with the intention to defraud, another’s access card or card information without the cardholder’s express written consent has committed credit card fraud. The charge is escalated to grand theft if the amount exceeds $950 within a six-month period.
The same can be charged if another’s access card is copied or purposely damaged.
How Prosecutors Will Charge the Crime
When persons are simply in possession of stolen credit cards, a litigable offense has occurred even if they have not used the stolen instruments. Prosecutors defend the interests of both the state and victims, and will use whatever evidence is presented to hold persons accountable.
Some credit card offenses are called ‘wobbler’ offenses, meaning either misdemeanors or felonies may be charged. For example, possessing and using expired credit cards may be charged as misdemeanors, whereas actually charging thousands on someone’s credit account may land the perpetrator in prison.
How county prosecutors charge credit card fraud depends on specifics involving the case. Did an individual actually have written permission, but had that permission later recanted by the owner? Did an individual living in California possess someone’s credit card information from Arizona? Many factors determine final charges assessed to the defendant.
How Defense Attorneys Protect Clients
Persons who never intended to defraud or steal another’s credit card information for purposes of egregious spending may have defenses to their alleged crime.
For example, an individual who used expired credit cards to pay for items would lack requisite intent to be held accountable under California law. Same would hold true if mother sent her daughter to purchase groceries, but the cashier felt uneasy about daughter using the card and calls police. While the cashier would be correct in feeling suspicious, no criminal charges would apply since she was granted permission.
Other meritorious defenses may apply to credit card fraud cases, which your attorney can explain to you in further detail.
If Caught With Stolen Credit Cards
It is never suggested one takes another’s credit card. However, if you are caught red-handed, do not volunteer information to law enforcement as they have got enough to arrest you, anyway. Cooperate with their requests, and take note of every detail surrounding your arrest. Small technicalities, like not having the arrest Mirandized, may get charges dismissed.
California’s Penal Code leaves little room to argue. Credit card fraud is serious, as are the punishments that coincide with being found guilty.
Credit card fraud attorney James E. Blatt takes cases with one goal: complete dismissal. If you have been charged with any financial wrongdoing, contact his office immediately by phone, email or scheduling an in-person consultation. Learn about him through his notable cases.