Undoubtedly, identity theft cases have become very common nowadays, primarily due to technological advances which make private information and details more easily accessible with just a touch of a button.
When you are under arrest or perhaps under investigation on suspicion that you are a culprit in an identity theft case, it is wise to retain the services of a defense attorney. An attorney with significant experience representing clients with similar cases will see how prosecutors and judges treat these crimes and use that to your advantage to fight for the possible outcome.
Experienced attorneys at California Criminal Lawyer Group understand that a crime and an arrest can happen any time of the day. Because of that, we are available 24/7 to ensure prompt intervention on our clients' cases whenever they need us the most.
Our attorneys are here for you if you are under investigation or arrest for an alleged identity theft charge in Anaheim. Below you will find more information about identity theft, including defenses our skilled attorneys could argue to convince jurors or a judge that you deserve a less severe charge or acquittal of the entire case.
Identity Theft Definition Under Penal Code 530.5 PC
Generally, according to Penal Code 530.5 PC, you commit the crime of identity theft when you engage in any of the activities listed below knowingly and willingly:
- Obtain another person's identifying information and use that information without his/her consent
- Take or acquire another person's identifying information with the motive to commit a fraudulent activity
- Sell, transfer or provide another person's identifying information or details without his/her consent with the motive to commit a fraudulent activity
- Sell, transfer, and provide another person's identifying information with the knowledge that these details will facilitate the furtherance or commission of a fraudulent activity
Key Elements of Identity Theft That You Ought to Understand
A few questions often arise on the legal definition of identity theft under PC 530.5 regarding the actual meaning of the following terms and elements:
Personal Identifying Information
For the sake of this law particular law, "personal identifying information" includes the following types of information:
- Employee ID, school ID
- Telephone number, date of birth, or address
- Social security number, tax ID
- Death and birth certificate information
- Credit card or bank account information
- Mother's maiden name
- Driver's license number
- Passport number
- Biometric information like fingerprints, iris images, or perhaps voiceprints
Therefore, taking any of the above personal identifying information without the owner's consent could qualify as identity theft, according to PC 530.5.
Willfully Obtain and Unlawful Purposes
To secure a conviction against you for PC 530.5 violation, the prosecutor presiding over your case must prove that you had illegal motives when you willingly obtained another person's identifying information. Typically, a person commits an act willfully if he/she does it willingly or intentionally. On the other hand, illegal purposes could be illegally obtaining or attempting to obtain:
- Medical information
- Real property
For a conviction under PC 530.5, the prosecutor does not have to prove to the court that you acted with a criminal intent to defraud.
Typically, fraud refers to willful or intentional acts intended or designed to:
- Secure an unlawful or unfair gain
- Cause another person to incur a loss
However, it is worth noting you could be guilty of PC 530.5 violation even if:
- You did not have the criminal intent to defraud
- The victim did not incur a loss
Legal and Viable Defenses for Identity Theft Charge
Unless you are an attorney with knowledge and experience in white-collar crimes, you should hire an attorney to represent your best interest in court if you are under arrest for an identity theft charge.
With appropriate and well-planned legal defenses, an experienced attorney can help you beat an identity theft charge or convince the court to reduce the charge to a less severe related offense. Below are some of the common applicable legal defenses your attorney could mount to counter the alleged identity theft charge for the best favorable judgment:
Lack of Illegal Purpose or Motives
Remember, you are only guilty of PC 530.5 violation only if you obtain personal identifying details of another person for an illegal purpose or reason. In your defense, to counter the alleged identity theft charge, your defense attorney could argue that you did not intend to use these details for unlawful or criminal purposes for a less severe charge or dismissal of the case.
Your attorney can claim that you did obtain personal identifying details of another, but you did so in an attempt to complete a report.
Your Acts Were Not WIllful or Intentional
Also, remember, the prosecutor must prove that your acts were willful or intentional to secure a conviction against you for PC 530.5 violation. That means you should not be guilty of identity theft under PC 530.5 if you did not take the other person's identifying details on purpose.
Your attorney could argue that your actions were accidental, meaning you did not intend to use the information for unlawful reasons. To strengthen this defense argument, your defense attorney should present circumstantial evidence to prove to the court beyond a reasonable doubt that your acts were not deliberate.
Lack of Purpose or Motive to Defraud
Although the prosecutor does not have to prove that you had the criminal intent to defraud, it could be necessary for him/her to prove that you had the intent to deceive, depending on your case's facts. Proving this element beyond a reasonable doubt is often challenging.
That means your attorney could use this in your favor and argue that you did not have the intent to deceive or defraud the accuser for a less severe charge or dismissal of the identity theft case.
You Had Consent or Permission
If you had a reasonable belief that you had consent to use the accuser's credit card to make some purchases, you could not be guilty of PC 530.5 violation. A skilled attorney will keenly interrogate the accuser when preparing defense arguments to know whether you had consent to use his/her credit card to make the alleged purchases.
You are Falsely Accused
Even lawmakers acknowledge that a person with "bad blood" or bitterness against you or your family can make false accusations for vengeance. If this defense argument works out in your favor, the court could drop or reduce the alleged identity theft charge to a less severe offense.
You are a Victim of Police Misconduct
As you could beware, a police officer cannot search your person or property without a search warrant or probable cause. If any information was seized from your computer in violation of your legal right to stay free from unlawful search and seizures, you could not be guilty of PC 530.5 violation.
According to section 1538.5, your attorney can request a motion to suppress all the incriminating evidence obtained illegally by the arresting officers for the best possible outcome.
It is also possible that the alleged identity theft charge you are up against is due to a mistaken identity issue. That is possible, especially where hacking is involved in the furtherance of an offense. Hackers could hack your computer and steal your system logins to hide their identity after committing a cybercrime or computer fraud.
If you are in this situation, it is wise to talk to an attorney to investigate your case and prove to the court that you did not know that someone was using your computer system logins. Without an aggressive legal representation by a reliable attorney, you could end up with a conviction for a crime you did not commit due to a mistaken identity issue.
Do not hesitate to retain the services of an attorney if you are under investigation or arrest for an identity theft charge.
Potential Penalties for an Identity Theft Charge Conviction Under PC 530.5
The identity theft offense under PC 530.5 is chargeable and punishable as a wobbler, depending on your case's facts and circumstances. Typically, upon conviction for an identity theft charge, the penalties you will be subject to are the same, regardless of whether you acquired, transferred, retained, sold, or used another person's identifying details for illegal reasons.
The actual sentence you will face will generally depend on the severity of the loss or harm the victim incurred and the circumstances of your case. If charged as a felony, a conviction for PC 530.5 violation could make you subject to the penalties listed below:
- Incarceration in the state prison for not more than three years
- Felony probation
- Up to $10,000 fine
- Both imprisonment and fine
However, when the prosecutor files your case as a misdemeanor, the penalties you will face upon conviction will be less severe, including:
- Misdemeanor probation
- Not more than $1,000
- Incarceration in the county jail for up to one year
- Both fine and an incarceration term
Other Possible Negative Consequences That Come With An Identity Theft Charge Conviction
The consequences you will be subject to upon a conviction for PC 530.5 violation could follow you even after serving your sentence and paying all your dues. Apart from the penalties mentioned above, a conviction for PC 530.5 violation could attract the following potential consequences:
A Criminal Record
Even after your sentence completion, a conviction for PC 530.5 violation will remain in your criminal record, affecting several aspects of your life. Generally, a criminal record makes you unreliable and untrustworthy, meaning employers could be reluctant to hire you when looking for employment.
Nowadays, most landlords will also check your criminal background before accepting you to live in their apartments. That means a conviction for identity theft could also affect your ability to secure an apartment, affecting your quality of life.
Loss of Voting Rights
We all have the right to vote during elections, but this legal right could go away if you are still on your sentence for an identity theft charge conviction. However, you will automatically receive your voting rights after completing your probation or sentence.
Loss of Gun Ownership Rights
According to PC 29800(a)(1), convicted felons cannot possess, buy or own a firearm. To that end, If you are guilty of a felony identity theft charge, you could lose your legal rights to own a firearm or a gun which can significantly affect your life, especially if you are a hunter.
Loss of Professional License
If you are a licensed professional, you could lose your license upon conviction for an identity theft charge under PC 530.5, affecting your ability to earn and provide for your family. Even if you were planning to secure a professional license, it could be challenging to do so upon a conviction for a PC 530.5 violation, which can destroy your career and dreams.
Negative Immigration Consequences
A conviction for an identity theft charge could also attract negative immigration consequences if you are an alien or a non-citizen and your identity theft case involves fraudulent activities. An identity theft case with fraud will attract negative immigration consequences because fraud is typically a crime involving moral turpitude.
Generally, the negative immigration consequences you could face following a conviction for PC 530.5 violation include:
- Being marked as inadmissible
Being marked as inadmissible means you will not be able to reenter the country after deportation, regardless of your stay or the ties you have here.
With the knowledge of these potential consequences in your mind, you should not hesitate to hire a defense attorney if you are in trouble with the law for an alleged identity theft charge under PC 530.5.
Expunging a Criminal Record for an Identity Theft Charge Conviction
Upon a conviction for PC 530.5 violation, the good news is that your defense attorney can help you seek an expungement under PC 1203.4 to delete your criminal record. Typically, an expungement allows you to withdraw a plea of no contest or guilty to reenter a new plea of not guilty and have your identity theft case dismissed.
When the court grants your petition, an expungement or expunction will release you from several detrimental consequences and disabilities you are experiencing due to an identity theft charge conviction.
However, not everyone is eligible for expungement under section 1203.4 of the Penal Code. To qualify for an expungement, you must:
- Complete your jail sentence
- Complete your probation successfully, meaning you did not violate any court-ordered conditions or requirements during the probation period
- Not have served time in the state prison, or if you did, you could be eligible to serve time in the county jail if you committed the offense after the enactment of "realignment" under Proposition (Prop) 47
Just like you need an attorney in your corner during the prosecution process, you will need him/her to help you prepare arguments to prove you deserve an expungement after conviction.
Offenses Closely Related to Identity Theft Under PC 530.5
Identity theft is closely related to many other white-collar crimes, meaning the prosecutor could file any of them against you alongside or instead of the underlying offense. Below are some of these crimes:
Credit Card Fraud
Different sections of the Penal Code, including sections 484e, 484f, 484g, 484h, 484i, and 484j, make it illegal to commit debit card, credit card, or access card fraud. Typically, these sections make it unlawful to access and use another person's credit card without his/her consent to obtain goods and services or perhaps money.
Depending on the amount of money involved, the prosecutor could file your credit card fraud case as:
- Grand theft
- Petty theft
If the money or the value of the items involved in the credit or debit card fraud exceeds $950, the prosecutor will file your case as grand theft. In that case, a conviction could result in a maximum of three years confinement in the state prison. However, if the money involved is less than $950, the prosecutor will file your case as petty theft.
In that case, a conviction will result in misdemeanor penalties, including a jail term of up to one year and a fine not exceeding $1,000.
Section 529 of the Penal Code is the statute that describes the offense of "false personation." Generally, according to this section, it is unlawful to do any of the following:
- Personate another person falsely
- Perform any act with the intent of acquiring undeserved benefit or gain or cause another person to become:
- Accountable in a prosecution or lawsuit
- Obligated to pay restitution or money
Since false personation is a wobbler offense in the eyes of the law, you could be subject to felony or misdemeanor penalties if you are guilty of a PC 529 violation. If guilty of misdemeanor false personation, you should expect a county jail term of up to one year and a fine of not more than $10,000.
However, when charged as a felony, a conviction for a PC 529 violation could carry the following potential penalties:
- A fine not exceeding $10,000
- Detention in the county jail for not more than three years
Depending on the facts of your case, the prosecutor could file both forgery and identity theft charges against you. According to PC 470, you commit a forgery crime when you do the following knowingly and willfully:
- Falsify another person's signature
- Fraudulently alter, counterfeit, or publish specific documents of another person, for example, a cashier's check, property deeds, money order, contract, inspections, stock certificates
Depending on your criminal background, the magnitude of the involved fraud case, and the amount of money involved, the prosecutor could file the alleged forgery case as a felony or misdemeanor. When charged as a misdemeanor, a conviction will result in an incarceration term of not more than one year in the county jail and a fine not exceeding $1,000.
However, when charged as a felony, a conviction for PC 470 violation will carry the penalties listed below:
- A maximum of $10,000 fine
- A maximum of three years custody in the county jail
- Felony probation
A mail theft crime is another white-collar crime related to an identity theft offense under PC 530.5. According to PC 530.5(e), you commit a mail theft offense when you do the following knowingly and willingly:
- Take or steal another person's receptacle or mailbox
- Use deception or fraud to acquire mail from any of these sources
- Remove contents of stolen mail, and
- Hide or destroy a stolen mail
- Possess, buy, or unlawfully receive any stolen mail
For the sake of this statute, a mail could be any of the following:
Since most people often steal other peoples' mails to obtain or acquire personal identifying details, the prosecutor could charge you with both mail theft and identity theft simultaneously. Upon conviction for PC 530.5e, you should anticipate the following misdemeanor penalties:
- Up to twelve months (12) in the county jail
- A maximum $1,000 fine
A skilled and aggressive attorney could help you mount relevant, viable defenses to counter the alleged identity theft charge for a favorable outcome. Before you hire a defense attorney to represent your best interest in court after an arrest for an alleged identity theft charge, it is wise to ensure that he/she is:
- Qualified and experienced
- Accredited and reputable
- Friendly and courteous
- Accessible and available
- Legally licensed
With a skilled attorney on your corner, you can be sure of the best legal representation you need to counter the alleged identity theft charge for a less severe charge or dismissal of the entire case.
Find a Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
In an attempt to reduce identity theft crimes that have become rampant and common nowadays, jurors and judges impose severe penalties on defendants upon a conviction for PC 530.5 violation. Because of that, you would not want to leave the alleged case in the hands of a mediocre and unreliable attorney.
We invite you to call experienced and profound attorneys at California Criminal Lawyer Group at 714-766-0965 if you are in trouble with the law for an alleged identity theft charge in Anaheim. Once you contact us, we will dive into your case immediately to build the best defenses that could work out to your advantage for the best possible verdict on the alleged charge.