In today’s electronic age most people do the bulk of their financial transactions online and with bank cards. Few people use cash anymore to make purchases or pay bills. As a result, theft offenses involving credit cards and debit cards have risen dramatically over the last decade. If you have been charged with theft by a credit or debit card in California you could be facing jail time as well as a felony conviction on your permanent record if convicted of the offense.
Both state and federal laws make it illegal to do a number of things with credit or debit cards. Simply possessing a credit card that is stolen, even if you did not use the card, could land you in trouble with the authorities. If you actually use the card, or the card information, you are violating California Penal Code 484g which makes it a crime to use a credit or debit card, with the intent to defraud, to obtain money, services, goods, or anything else of value.
If the value of the goods, services, money etc. is less than $950 you will be charged with theft. If the value is over $950 you will be charged with grand theft. It is important to note that when determining whether to charge a suspect with theft or grand theft the total value over a six month period is used. In other words, if you used a credit card that was not yours, and for which you did not have permission to use, and made a purchase last week for something valued at $600 and then made additional purchases this week for items valued at $600 you could be charged with grand theft because the aggregate value is over $950. You can also be charged under the same statute if you use an altered, forged, expired, or counterfeit credit or bank card.
Theft, under California law, is a misdemeanor which is punishable by up to a year in jail. Grand theft is what is referred to as a “wobbler” under California law. A “wobbler” is an offense that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony at the prosecuting attorney’s discretion. If you are convicted of the felony you face 16 months, two years, or three years in prison.
There are a variety of defenses that may be available in your case if you have been charged with theft involving a credit or debit card. Only an experienced California criminal defense attorney can review the specific facts and circumstances of your case and provide you with an opinion with regard to the potential defenses.
Latest posts by Domenic Lombardo (see all)
- Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Club of San Diego, President’s Column: New California Criminal Defense Laws - March 19, 2018
- Proposition 64: Bountiful Harvest of Relief to Many Convicted of Marijuana Offenses - December 30, 2016
- Government Planes Harvesting Cell Phone Communications over San Diego? - May 6, 2016