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When Can a Person Be Charged With Identity Theft in California?

 Posted on October 09, 2023 in Criminal Defense

Untitled---2023-10-09T163415.734.jpgIdentity theft is a criminal offense that involves the unauthorized use of someone's personal information for fraudulent purposes. In California, the laws regarding identity theft are stringent, and people who obtain, possess, or use other people’s personal information illegally can face severe penalties. It is important to understand when a person can be charged with identity theft in California and what types of penalties they may face if they are convicted of this crime. When defending against identity theft or fraud charges, it is important to work with an attorney who has experience representing clients in these types of cases.

Understanding Identity Theft Charges

Identity theft occurs when someone uses another person's personal or financial information without their consent, typically for financial gain or to commit fraudulent activities. The stolen information can include:

  • Social Security numbers

  • Credit card numbers

  • Bank account details

  • Driver's license numbers

  • Email addresses and passwords

  • Date of birth

Identity theft charges may be related to several different activities, including:

  • Credit card fraud: A person may be accused of gaining access to someone’s credit card details either through hacking into online accounts, obtaining physical credit cards illegally, or stealing a person’s wallet or purse. They may also be accused of using a credit card number or account information to make unauthorized purchases, withdraw cash at ATMs, or sell the information on black market platforms. 

  • Phishing scams: A person may be accused of tricking people into revealing sensitive personal information through the use of deceptive emails, text messages, or phone calls that appear to be from trusted sources such as banks, government agencies, or well-known companies. 

  • Social engineering: A person may be accused of manipulating people into divulging confidential information, such as by impersonating a tech support representative and convincing someone to provide access to their bank accounts or reveal personal identifying details.

The Elements of Identity Theft

In order for a person to be charged with identity theft in California, certain elements must be proven by the prosecution:

  • Fraudulent Intent: The person accused of identity theft must have intended to deceive or defraud another individual or entity.

  • Possession of personal information: The accused must have acquired someone else's personal identifying information without permission. 

  • Use of personal information: The accused must have used this personal information for unlawful purposes such as making financial transactions, obtaining goods or services fraudulently, opening new accounts under false pretenses, or committing other fraudulent acts.

Penalties for Identity Theft

In general, identity theft is charged as a misdemeanor under California law. A person who is convicted of this offense may be sentenced to up to one year in a county jail, and they may also be fined up to $1,000. Depending on the circumstances of the alleged offense, a person may also be required to pay restitution to people who were affected by identity theft or other related offenses.

Defenses Against Identity Theft Charges

If someone is facing charges of identity theft in California, there are several defenses that an experienced criminal defense attorney can employ. These may include:

  1. Lack of intent: It may be possible to show that the accused person did not have fraudulent intent and did not intend to deceive or defraud anyone by using their personal information.

  2. No unauthorized possession: A defendant may argue that they had permission or lawful authority to possess or acquire the alleged victim's personal identifying information.

  3. No use of personal information: Even if a person possessed someone else’s personal information without authorization, they may be able to show that they did not use it unlawfully for any fraudulent purposes.

Contact Our Santa Clara County Identity Theft Defense Attorney

If you or someone you know has been charged with identity theft in California, it is crucial to seek legal representation immediately. These charges can have long-lasting effects on your life and your future opportunities. At Fuller Law Firm, our experienced Gilroy fraud defense lawyer has successfully defended numerous clients who have been charged with these types of crimes. Contact us at 408-234-7563 to schedule a free consultation today.

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