Advances in modern technology have made it easier for individuals to engage in identity theft. Identity theft offenders often obtain another individual’s credit card numbers, social security numbers, and passwords in attempt to obtain driver’s licenses, apply for loans, and purchase merchandise. This fraudulent behavior is considered a serious problem throughout California and across the United States and both the federal government and the State of California have strict identity theft laws in place. Unfortunately, a conviction of identity theft often comes with severe penalties and consequences that can adversely affect your entire life.
Identity Theft Laws in California
Both the State of California and the federal government have laws in place to protect individuals from identity theft. In the State of California, identity theft is addressed in California’s Penal Code section 530.5. According to California law, anyone who takes another person’s personal identifying information and uses that information for an unlawful purpose can be charged with identity theft. It can either be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor.
Identity theft can be prosecuted in a number of different jurisdictions. Specifically, the case charging identity theft can be prosecuted in: (1) the county where the theft of the personal identifying information occurred, (2) the county in which the victim resided at the time the offense was committed, or, (3) the county where the information was used for an illegal purpose. Moreover, jurisdiction also extends to all associated offenses connected together in their commission to the underlying identity theft offense or identity theft offenses.
What Constitutes Personal Identifying Information
California’s Penal Code section 530.55, subdivision (b), specifically defines what is considered by law to be a person’s identifying information. This includes:
- Date of birth
- Telephone numbers
- Tax ID
- Social security numbers
- Driver’s license numbers
- Passport information
- School ID
- Employee ID
- Bank account or credit card account information
- Birth certificate or death certificate information
Penalties for Identity Theft in California
The penalties and consequences for identity theft vary depending on the severity of the crime. It is important to remember, however, that every time you used another person’s identifying information counts as a separate violation of this law, so you could be facing multiple counts of identity theft.
For example: If you used your ex-husband’s credit card information to buy yourself a new necklace and then treated yourself to dinner, then you could be charged with two separate counts of identity theft-one for each time you used his information falsely.
If you are convicted of identity theft in California, you will face the following penalties and consequences:
- California misdemeanor
- Up to 1 year in county jail
- Maximum of $1,000 fines
- And more
- California felony
- Either 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in prison under PC 1170 (H)
- Up to $10,000 fines
- And more
Defenses against Identity Theft
There are many defenses your California identity theft defense lawyer can use to have your charges reduced or even dismissed. If you obtained the consent of the victim prior to using their identifying information, then your attorney may be able to have the charges dropped. Alternatively, if you didn’t even know that you were in possession of the personal identifying information of another then your attorney may be able to help you establish your innocence. Even if the prosecution has a solid case against you, an experienced San Jose identity theft defense lawyer can ensure that your rights are protected throughout the legal process and can lobby for a reduced sentence that includes probation instead of time in jail – for example, by you paying restitution to the alleged victim.
San Jose Identity Theft Defense Lawyers
At Ahmed & Sukaram, our San Jose criminal defense lawyers understand the complexities surrounding identity theft cases in the State of California. If you are charged with identity theft in the State of California, contact the dynamic legal team of Ahmed & Sukaram immediately. We are ready to fight to protect your rights and secure your freedom-no matter how serious the charges are against you. You are not alone-call Ahmed & Sukaram today.