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California Identity Theft Attorney – Penal Code 530.5 PC

Should You Find An Identity Theft Attorney?

The government does not go leisurely in cases of suspected identity theft. With more and more business being performed online, authorities are very keen on protecting consumers’ personal details.

If you are facing identity theft charges, you may wish to speak with an experienced California identity theft defense attorney as soon as possible. My Rights Law financial crime lawyers are experienced California identity theft attorney may be able to review the facts of your case, advise you on the most suitable route going forward and start preparing your defense. Call us at (888) 702-8882 or leave us a message on our secure web form today or for a free case consultation.

Identity Theft As A California State Offense

An identity theft conviction could mean years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.[1] Penal Code 530.5 covers the law of identity theft in California. According to this statute, you break the law when you willfully obtain someone’s identifying information and use it to get credit, loans, pay for property, goods, or any other unlawful purpose. Credit and debit cards, driving licenses, mail, and social security cards are examples of identifying information. Further charges may apply if you obtain this information through robbery, fraud, or computer hacking.

Some instances of these methods of identity theft include:

  • Using someone else’s name to collect welfare
  • Forging a signature on a check
  • Using someone else’s name/birthdate to carry out a criminal offense
  • Applying to get a mortgage or home loan with another individual’s info
  • Using someone else’s credit cards to buy items online or in stores.

Identity Theft Penalties

Identity theft is a wobbler in California. Wobbler offenses are crimes that prosecute may prosecute as a misdemeanor or felony.

You may spend a year in jail if you’re convicted of a misdemeanor. A judge may also order you to pay up to $1000 in fines. If a jury convicts you of this as a felony, you may spend three years behind bars and pay up to $10,000 in fines. If these sentences sound bearable, think again. A criminal record follows you for years, hindering your job opportunities and possibly affecting where you can live. Renters may turn you away; even if you file a discrimination suit, it can take months before the court resolves it. If you think California’s “Ban the Box” law will prevent employers from discriminating against you, this is not necessarily true.

Ban The Box Law

The “Ban the Box” law prohibits public employers from turning down your application solely based on your criminal record. The employer cannot ask whether the police have ever arrested you or a court found you guilty. Rather, the employer will give you a conditional offer to work first (unless your interview goes poorly or your resume doesn’t meet their needs). After this conditional hire, the employer may inquire into your background. Although state law still prohibits the employer from rescinding the conditional offer solely due to your conviction, the company can make an individual assessment as to why you can’t work for them.

In this case, certain jobs will likely have a credible reason to reject you. Law firms, banks, tax offices, accountant offices, and some customer service jobs that give you access to clients’ addresses, names, and birth dates may be justified in denying your employment.

Identity Theft Defenses

Fortunately, there are defenses at your disposal. Contact us at (888) 702-8882 or set an appointment by completing our secure web form for a free consultation and more tailored defenses.

No Criminal Intent

A prosecutor will struggle to make this charge stick if you can prove there wasn’t any criminal intent. For example, suppose you and another person accidentally mixed up your wallets because they look alike. In this case, you had possession of someone’s personal information, but it was unintentional. Suppose you found an I.D. on the ground, and you only held it long enough until you could return it to the rightful owner. Here, you had no criminal intent to defraud the person and didn’t use their identity for illegal purposes.

Duress

Duress is an affirmative defense where you confess to the crime but claim you didn’t commit it voluntarily. To use this defense, you must prove that:

  • You had a reasonable fear you were in immediate danger of death or serious bodily injury.
  • You had no way out.

Suppose you worked at a securities agency. Your employer held a crowbar to your head and forced you to log into your work computer and seize several clients’ information. Your employer had already hit you twice to get you to agree, so you had a reasonable fear that they’d hurt your worse if you didn’t give up the clients’ personal information.

Identity Theft As A Federal Offense

You are deeper if an attorney general brings a federal charge against you. Federal-level identity theft comes with stricture penalties than state-level, although the elements of the crimes are primarily the same. 18 U.S. Code § 1028 is the statute governing federal identity theft. It criminalizes knowingly:

  • Duplicating or creating (false) identification documents for illegal purposes.
  • Selling, using, transferring possession of (false) identification documents for illegal purposes.
  • Making, selling, or transferring possession of a device that can create false identification documents when you know that person will use it for illegal purposes.

Some of the most common methods by which identity theft is conducted include:

  • Hacking computers or using malware to get info from laptops.
  • Accessing business receipts, credit card readers, or RIFD readers to get credit card details; also known as “skimming.”
  • Stealing wallets or handbags.
  • Dumpster diving for scrapped records, correspondence, or tickets.
  • Sending fraudulent emails or “spam” emails to individuals to get them to deliver their personal information; also known as “phishing.”
  • Telephone frauds.
  • Stealing mail.
  • Eavesdropping in public.

Penalties

Punishment for this crime varies.

You stand to face up to fifteen years in federal prison if you made or gave to someone another person’s government-issued identification documents, made or gave away at least six identification documents, including false documents, or gave away a means of identification (e.g., someone’s account username and password) where the victim lost at least $1000 due to the fraud.

You might serve up to five years if you committed this crime for any other reason, excluding the harsher penalties below.

A judge may sentence you to as many as twenty years for this crime if a court previously convicted you of this, you did it to further drug trafficking, or you did it to help someone commit a violent crime. For example, giving mail that shows the victim’s name and address to an ex-spouse against whom the victim has a restraining order would be using identity theft to help someone commit a violent crime.

But you are at risk of the severest identity theft punishment if you commit this crime to further domestic or international terrorism.

Defenses

A person cannot willfully use personally identifying information for an unlawful purpose.[2] Someone commits an act willfully when they do it willingly or on purpose. [3] Fortunately, there are defenses at your disposal to an alleged identity theft crime. Common defenses are:

  • False allegation
  • No fraudulent purpose
  • No unlawful purpose
  • Accidental possession

False Allegation

Although some people may not consider false allegation a worthwhile defense, it is often the case. People lie, especially when they need to cover their necks. A coworker, neighbor, housemate, dormmate, tenant, and landlord comprise a short list of people who can access your property and make it seem as if you did something they’re guilty of doing. For example, a landlord may use their key to enter your apartment and hack into your computer. They use your laptop to hack into other people’s accounts. Once the police get involved, the unlawful activity gets traced back to your computer—not the landlord.

Thankfully, you can prove you’re falsely accused by confirming when you did and didn’t have access to certain information, alibis, and lack of purchases on your credit card history.

Call My Rights Law’s Identity Theft Attorney Today

As criminal defense attorneys, we represent clients accused of commercial identity theft, financial identity theft, bank fraud, mail fraud, theft of Social Security numbers, credit card fraud, and more. We advise and defend clients currently under federal investigation or who have been arrested for committing several identity theft crimes, including the following:

  • Using stolen credit cards.
  • Using stolen passwords or P.I.N.s at banks.
  • Mail fraud.
  • Money laundering.
  • Swiping Social Security numbers.
  • Using a misappropriated Social Security number.
  • Forging signatures.
  • Reporting fraudulent info on loan or credit card applications.

Charges this serious don’t go away without representation from skilled identity theft defense lawyers. Fortunately, My Rights Law has a history of getting our clients victories, whether that means dropped charges, dismissals, lighter sentencing, or deferment into a program. If you’d like to see how our identity theft attorneys can help, call (888) 702-8882 or reach out through our secure web form to schedule your free consultation.

Other financial crimes we defend include: Embezzlement

FOOTNOTES
[1] California Penal Code 530.5 PC; see also California Penal Code 1170h
[2] California Penal Code 530.5a
[3] CALCRIM No. 2040

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