Identity theft is taking someone else's personal information and using it unlawfully and fraudulently. This crime occurs when a person unlawfully obtains another person's identification information to open accounts, take personal loans, and even open credit cards. Identity theft is a white-collar crime involving non-violent deception to someone else by people such as businesspeople and public officials.
Other types of white-collar crimes are embezzlement, robbery, extortion, fraud, price-fixing. Others include bribery, perjury, and justice obstruction, and computer fraud. Identity theft is a wobbler crime, meaning it can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor with harsh penalties. Other consequences of identity theft conviction would affect both your professional career and personal lives.
If the police arrest you for identity theft in Orange County, California, you do not want to face the severe penalties that come with the offense. Contact an attorney from Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm if you want representation from experienced and dedicated criminal defense attorneys. Our attorneys will evaluate your case and advise you on the best ways to proceed.
Definition of Identity Theft Under the California Law
Under the California Law, identity theft includes any of the following criminal acts:
- Providing, transferring, or selling personal identification information of another person without their consent. The criminal action will be done to cause harm or steal from the real person.
- Obtaining someone else’s personal identification information but using it unlawfully without the consent of the person.
- Transferring, selling, or providing another person’s identification information when you are sure that the information will be used to commit fraud or any other criminal act.
- Using someone's personal identification information without their consent to commit a crime.
Key Elements of Identity Theft
The following are the elements of the crime that a prosecutor must prove before you are convicted of identity theft:
Personal Identification Information
The personal information that will make the police arrest you for identity theft is:
- Debit, credit, or bank account numbers
- Names, telephone and addresses of another person without their consent
- passport information
- driving license information
- Social security numbers and tax I.D
- Information contained in death and birth certificates such as date of birth and mother’s maiden names
- Employee I.D numbers and school I.D numbers.
Accessing any of the above information without the real owner's consent is considered identity theft.
Legal Access to Information With a Wrong Intention
An unlawful purpose involves obtaining someone else's information legally but uses it to commit fraud. You will be charged if you use another person’s information to purchase goods and services, obtain credit, or even property. Therefore, you will face penalties for either a felony or misdemeanor conviction, depending on how severe your crime is.
Committing a Fraud
Fraud is a deliberate action to gain favor or secure an illegal service so that the legal owner can experience a loss. For example, visiting your neighbor and picking a phone because it was left on the table. The prosecutor will charge you for committing fraud because you deliberately took an item that does not belong to you.
Types of Identity Theft
Identity theft takes several forms, with the most common one is using another person’s information without their consent to commit fraud. Some of the types of identity fraud are:
True Name Fraud
True name fraud uses another person’s identification information to open an account for use in an unlawful manner. The crime is mainly committed when you want to make large purchases, and you do not want to make the payment. In true name fraud, the thief charges a billing address so that the victim will not be aware of the delinquent account.
Criminal Identity Theft
It is a ruthless crime that you commit when you give the police another person’s information to avoid being arrested or charged for a particular crime. The warrant, criminal records, and fines will be attached to that other person who is not involved in the criminal act.
Account takeover means taking another person’s information to enable you to access their accounts. Such a case will happen if you accidentally come across another person’s credit card, and you use it to charge a purchase to your account. Account takeover also includes withdrawing, transferring, or doing any other unlawful transaction using an account that is not yours.
Identity Theft Hacking
Identity hacking is a common crime that is committed in our day to day lives. It involves gaining access to a computer network, data, or a computer with an illegal intent. Hacking involves data manipulation or the system itself. A good example is when you access someone's login details and use them to access the system without their consent.
Under California law, it is a criminal act to access someone's computer without their consent. It is also a crime to change, destroy or delete information that does not belong to you, with intent to:
- Formulate or execute a plan to deceive or defraud
- Illegally control, take miner, property, or data
- Therefore, it means that if you are found guilty of the two acts, you will be charged with identity theft.
When is Identity Theft Considered a Federal Crime?
Identity theft can also be charged as a federal offense depending on the circumstances. It means that if arrested for an identity theft crime, you can face penalties both in the California law and the federal law. Federal regulations are more severe, and to avoid the harsh penalties, consult an attorney to guide you through the trial process.
It is a crime under the federal law to:
- Display an identification card that belongs to another person intentionally
- Transport, own, produce, or give equipment that is used to make fake documents deliberately
- Transfer documents belonging to someone else to a different person with an intent to cause fraud
When charged for a federal crime, the penalties you will face include payment of a fine of $250,000 if the offense involved an individual theft identity. If identity theft is that of an organization, you end up paying a fine of $500,000. Incarceration for fifteen years is also a possible penalty that you will face if you are charged for a federal crime.
A federal conviction on identity theft can also lead to your imprisonment if at the time of arrest:
- You had a prior conviction for identity theft
- You were involved in drug trafficking
- You were involved in a violent criminal act
Legal Defenses for Identity Theft Crime
Here are some of the common defenses that we can use if you are facing identity theft charges:
You may be accused of identity theft by mistake. For example, a person may hack your social media account and hide their identity. In that case, you will be charged because your details will be visible in the system. A thorough investigation will be done with a qualified attorney, and the attorney will do everything possible to ensure that you are not convicted. The attorney will also prove that someone else used your personal identification information to commit fraud or any other crime without your consent.
You had No Intention to Commit a Fraud
You will be charged for identity theft if you are found guilty of using another person’s identification information to commit fraud. This is because the prosecutor does not have to prove that you indeed committed an identity theft for you to be convicted. Therefore, it means that a mere intention to commit a fraud is enough for the prosecutor to convict you.
You Did Not Have Any Unlawful Intention
You likely obtain another person’s information without the intention to commit any fraud. For example, you collect a credit card on your way and decide to report to the authority about the lost and found card. The police arrest you by the mere reporting, alleging that you have someone else’s information without their consent.
To be convicted for identity theft, the prosecutor must prove that you had the wrong intention by possessing the card. Consulting your attorney will help defend any allegations against you and prove to the prosecutor that you are not guilty.
A false accusation is possible, especially if someone wants an act of particular revenge on you. The person can frame you for identity theft by planting the documents on you and then report they are lost. You are found guilty when the documents are found in your possession.
Defending the accusation may be challenging because the investigation will prove that you had the information. Therefore, you need a legal representation to handle your case and confirm that the allegations against you are false.
Penalties for Identity Theft Crime
Under California law, identity theft is charged as a wobbler, meaning that it can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor depending on how severe your crime is and if you had prior convictions. Misdemeanor charges are less than those of felony convictions.
If charged as a misdemeanor, you face the following penalties:
- Serving a jail term of a maximum of one year in the county jail
- Payment of a fine of $1,000
- Misdemeanor probation or
- Face both signs, payment of fines, and serving a jail term
If charged as a felony, it means your crime was to the extreme, and you had prior convictions. Therefore, you will be put on felony probation, payment of a fine of not more than three years, and get an order to pay a fine of $10,000or less.
Losing your gun right is another consequence you face if your identity theft is charged as a felony. However, a misdemeanor conviction does not affect your right to owning guns. To retain your gun right freedom, you should get help from an attorney who understands the law well and knows how to defend cases such as identity theft.
Immigration Consequences for Identity Theft Crime
If you are convicted for identity theft and are an immigrant, you risk inadmissibility and deportation. If your identity theft involves fraud, your freedom for immigration will be affected. To avoid all that, you need to seek assistance from a qualified attorney to help defend your case.
Other Consequences of Identity Theft
When you are charged with identity theft in California, and your records are maintained in the public database, it means some aspects of your life will be affected. You become untrustworthy in the society, and your criminal record is available for everyone to see.
Criminal records limit your chances of securing a job. If you apply for a job, your employer goes through a background check, and the conviction records will be seen. The employer will hesitate to trust you, and the record can be the basis for job disqualification.
Renting a residential property can also be challenging. Landlords will not lease you a property with your criminal records because of mistrust. Again, the landlord will check your background information, and they will likely deny you the house.
Another significant effect that you can face is a denial of your voting rights. Your right to voting is reduced when convicted for an identity theft crime. When serving your identity theft sentence, you are not allowed to vote in case of an election. That will happen upon completion of your sentence.
Criminal records also limit the services you can offer as a jury, especially if you are charged with a felony. You will serve after the successful completion of your sentence when your rights are restored. It is a primary reason that will make you seek help from an attorney. The attorney will help you fight back for your rights and participate in your duties.
When charged with a felony conviction, your chances of serving in the army are also limited. You will have the opportunity back once you complete your sentence. You can also serve in the military even after conviction if you get a waiver from the Secretary of Defense. Suppose convicted for a felony when already in the army, you may be denied your military pension after retirement.
A felony conviction can also deny you your professional license, despite meeting the educational requirements. Your career is therefore destroyed, and you will have no other choice other than looking for a different job.
The above consequences affect your life because you are denied most of your rights. Consulting an attorney will increase your chances of retaining your rights and living your everyday life.
Expungement of Your Record
Under the California Law, you have a right to file for a petition to have your criminal record expunged. Therefore, it means that you can have your criminal record deleted from the database, and no one can access it. You are supposed to disclose it when applying for a job vacancy in a government agency or a public sector.
For your record to be expunged, there are some conditions that you must meet. You must have completed your probation and fulfilled all other requirements that will be detailed in your sentence. The judge will decide to have your record expunged. Therefore, it is essential to involve your attorney in filing for a petition because they understand the conditions under which expungement is done.
Offenses Related to Identity Theft
Other crimes related to identity theft are:
Credit Card Fraud
It is a crime for you to commit a debit card fraud, access card fraud, or credit card fraud under California law. Some of the offenses classified under credit card fraud include:
Credit card fraud by a retailer. When a retailer makes a payment via a revoked, fake, or stolen credit card when they already know that it is not valid, it is a crime. The retailer will also commit a crime by presenting false evidence of a payment transaction when there is no such transaction.
Fraudulent use of another person’s account or a credit card. Under the California Law, it is a crime for you to use a fake, expired, or stolen account or credit card to procure goods.
Counterfeiting credit cards. It is a crime for you to possess or manufacture a counterfeit credit card. The law also makes it a crime if you own equipment to make fake credit cards.
Stealing credit cards. It is a crime under the California Law to possess, sell, or steal a debit or credit card information without the real owner's consent.
Credit card forgery. The law makes it a criminal act to make any alteration to a credit card. It is also a crime to sign a credit card using another person’s name without their consent.
Publishing credit card information. The police will arrest you if you are found communicating any credit card information to cause fraud. Some of the credit card information you can be charged for disclosing are passwords, PINs, and other private information.
Some of the defenses that will help to dismiss your case or reduce your charges are:
- There was no probable cause for the police to arrest you
- You had no intention to commit fraud
- The police arrested you following an unlawful seizure
If there is enough evidence that you committed a credit card fraud, your penalties will relate to grand theft, petty theft, or forgery, depending on the card's value and if you had prior convictions.
It is a criminal act to steal someone else’s mail to obtain false identification information meant for fraud. The law will consider it a crime if you:
- Remove contents of any stolen mail
- Unlawfully possess, receive or buy any stolen mail when you well know that it is stolen
- Hiding or destroying a stolen mail
- Stealing or taking a mail from a mailbox without authorization and
Deceive someone to obtain mail information for purposes of fraud.
Some legal defenses for mail theft are:
- The mail theft was accidental
- You were wrongly accused of mail theft
- You had no criminal intent
The penalties that you will face if the court convicts you for mail theft are serving a jail term of up to one year in the County jail, misdemeanor probation, and payment of a fine not exceeding $1,000.
Forgery Criminal Act
A forgery is a criminal act that you commit to falsify a signature or alter any information in a particular document fraudulently. If the police arrest you for forgery, you will be charged for forgery and identity theft, depending on the case's facts.
False personation uses someone else's identity or real name to take unfair advantage or harm the real person. If the police arrest you for false personation, the prosecutor will charge you for either a felony or a misdemeanor. Some of the situations that are classified under false personation include:
When you commit a crime, that will make the real person liable for a particular action that you have done.
- Committing a crime that will force the real person to pay some money
- Gaining benefit from the act of impersonation
- A pretense of being someone else
Some of the legal defenses for false personation are
- You had no benefits or liabilities
- You were falsely accused
- There was no other act
The penalties for false personation will depend on whether the prosecutor has charged you for a felony or a misdemeanor. Misdemeanor conviction penalties are imprisonment in the County jail for one year. Felony conviction penalties serve a jail term for a maximum of three years, felony probation, or misdemeanor probation. Contacting your attorney will therefore help reduce these charges or even dismiss your case.
Find A Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
The penalties associated with identity theft are harsh, and you have to do everything to get reduced charges or sentences. For example, you can face a jail term, have restrictions for immigration, lose your gun rights, among other penalties. Your freedom will be affected by identity theft crime convictions or a mere allegation. If you are charged with identity theft, we advise you to contact the Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm to get help in fighting the charges. Contact us at 714-740-7848 today.