In California, the law against identity theft is found in Penal Code Section 530.5.
What is California Identity Theft?
Under Penal Code Section 530.5 identity theft is obtaining and using another's personal information for an unlawful or fraudulent purpose. There are four main types of identity theft: (1) obtaining and using another's information without their consent for an unlawful purpose, (2) obtaining and using another's information without their consent to commit fraud, (3) selling, transferring or conveying another's personal information without their consent with the intent to commit fraud, and (4) selling, transferring or conveying another's personal information without their consent knowing that the information will be used to commit fraud.
Simply possessing another person's information may not rise to the level of identity theft. To be convicted under 530.5, a prosecutor will have to prove that the defendant used (1) another person's information in either (2) an unlawful manner or (3) with fraudulent intent.
Another person's information includes a person's name, birth date, address; social security or tax I.D. number; driver's license or passport information; employee or school identification; and bank or credit information.
Using information in an unlawful manner includes using it to acquire money, property, goods, services, or medical information.
Fraud under California law is defined as actions that (1) result in an unfair benefit for the defendant and/ or (2) harm another person or causes them a loss.
What are the penalties for California Identity Theft?
Identity theft in California can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor depending on (1) the defendant's criminal history, and (2) the specific facts of the case.
A person convicted of misdemeanor identity theft faces up to one year in county jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. A person convicted of felony identity theft faces up to three years in California state prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
Federal law prohibits identity theft more severely than California law. Under the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998, it is unlawful to present someone else's identification documents, knowingly passing on stolen identification documents, and producing, buying, selling, or transporting equipment to falsify documents. If convicted under federal law a defendant faces heavy fines and up to 30 years in federal prison.
It is important to point out that both under federal and California law that each use of another's personal information counts as a separate offense, even if it is against the same victim.
What are the defenses to California Identity Theft?
There are several defenses that an individual can assert to charges of identity theft:
- No fraudulent intent/ No unlawful purpose. For a conviction under Section 530.5, a prosecutor will have to prove that the defendant used another person's information in either (1) an unlawful manner or (2) with fraudulent intent. Depending on the charge (unlawful purpose or fraudulent intent), a defendant can prove that he or she had no unlawful purpose or fraudulent intent.
- Interactive computer service or software provider. Federal law specifically exempts interactive computer services or software providers, unless they sell or transfer the information with the intent to commit fraud. If the defendant is a computer services or access software provider, he or she can prove that there was no fraudulent intent.
Orange County Identity Theft Defense at the Johnson Criminal Law Group
Our criminal defense attorney at the Johnson Criminal Law Group will provide you with experienced legal defense for identity theft charges. If facing possible charges it is important to get in touch with our Orange County criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. We can be reached by phone at (949) 622-5522 or you can send us a message online today.