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Will I Get Jail Time for Credit Card Fraud in California?

California has numerous Penal Code Sections that makes it a crime for someone to commit credit, debit, or access card fraud.

Specifically, PC 484e, 484f, 484g, 484h, 484i, and 484j all criminalize the use of a credit or debit card to fraudulently obtain money, goods, or services.

Penal Code 484 PC defines petty theft, but contains several subdivisions which define a specific crime of committing various forms of thefts related to the use of a credit or debit card.

Clearly, it's a crime to use another person's credit or debit card in order to receive something they are not entitled to receive.

The California statues that define the fraud related crimes include the following:

  • Penal Code 484e PC – possession of stolen credit cards and filed as a grand theft “wobbler” offense;
  • Penal Code 484f PC – forgery of credit card information including altering an existing card and signing someone's name without consent;
  • Penal Code 484g PC – fraudulent use of access card by using an expired, fake, stolen, altered card to complete a transaction;
  • Penal Code 484h PC – fraudulent transactions by a retailer when they knowingly charge a credit card for services not provided;
  • Penal Code 484i PCcounterfeiting credit cards including manufacturing and possession of credit card making devices;
  • Penal Code 484j PC – publishing credit card information including posting online PIN or account numbers, and passwords.

Federal credit card fraud

Will I Get Jail Time for Credit Card Fraud in California?

In more serious cases, you could be charged with a federal crime if the act occurred across state lines, against a government entity, or involves a large fraudulent scheme.

The United States Government can prosecute someone under 18 U.S.C. 1029 credit card fraud laws if the offense occurred under their jurisdiction.

These type of fraud cases are investigated by federal law enforcement agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and prosecuted more aggressively.

If convicted of federal credit card fraud, it's punishable by up to 20 years in prison and large fines that will depend on the amount of loss in the case.

This article from our Los Angeles criminal lawyers will review the most common defenses against credit card fraud cases, avoiding avoid jail time if you are convicted, and the chances of a prefiling intervention to avoid the formal filing of charges before court.

Related California Crimes for Credit Card Fraud

  • Penal Code 470 – forgery,
  • Penal Code 487 PC – grand theft,
  • Penal Code 530.5 PC – identity theft,
  • Penal Code 503 PC – unauthorized computer access,
  • Penal Code 459 PC – burglary,
  • Penal Code 368 PC – elder abuse,
  • Penal Code 182 PC – conspiracy.

Evaluating The Details of the Credit Card Fraud Case

Many people are arrested in California for credit card related offenses and many of those same people have no criminal record and are worried they're going to be placed in jail or prison.

Of course, much will depend on the circumstances of their arrest and other factors which are important when evaluating a credit card scheme and whether or not you're going to go into custody.

Amount of loss 

I would say the primary thing that will determine whether someone gets taken into jail or sent to prison is the amount of loss.  Obviously, the more the loss, the more likely it is that you're going to serve some jail/prison time.

Making the victim whole 

In conjunction with this, if you're able to pay the loss back up front, a lot of times that has a huge impact on whether or not you get any jail or prison time.

This is because the prosecutors and judges feel that it is part of their job in credit card fraud or credit card scheme cases, to make the victim whole. In other words, to:

  • get their money back for them;
  • get their property back;
  • whatever the total amount of loss.

So, if we can come into that negotiation with the money, that puts us in a pretty strong negotiating position to try to keep you out of jail and also try and see if we can set up a misdemeanor instead of a felony.

All of this, of course, presumes that the prosecutor is able to prove the case against you.

Defending Credit Card Fraud Cases

If on the other hand, you're innocent of the case and you've got a good defense, then we will certainly explore that route.  If you're found not guilty then you don't have to worry about any jail or prison time.

Defending Credit Card Fraud Cases in Los Angeles

If you were arrested for any type of credit card fraud in California, there are several common defense strategies our criminal lawyers can use:

  • no fraudulent intent,
  • false accusation,
  • good-faith mistake,
  • illegal search and seizure.

The best defense against credit or debit card fraud will often focus on the intent of the defendant.

Further, through prefiling intervention, we might be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to avoid to formal filing of charges before court or reduce a felony charges to a misdemeanor.

But a lot of these credit card cases, the authorities have done a good investigation and they've got the proof that the person did commit some sort of a credit card fraud scam.

If that is, in fact, the case, then you should get an attorney right away and be honest with them.

Initial meeting 

The first step is that I will have you come into the office.  We go over everything.  A lot of times people want to begin by telling me their side of the story, leaving out all facts and details that are against them.

I certainly want to hear your side of the story, but by the same token, let's have all the information, because with only part of the information, I can't come up with a solution.  I need it all.

I can't tell you how many times I've seen less seasoned defense attorneys who didn't ferret all their information out of their client in a credit card scam case and they end up getting up-ended by the prosecutors when new evidence comes to light that their client didn't tell them about.

Preparing Best Strategy for a Credit Card Fraud Case

You want your defense attorney to know everything about your case, the good, the bad, the ugly.

Preparing Best Strategy for a Credit Card Fraud Case

That way, they can get you the best result in the case and come up with the best strategy.

You don't want to come up with a roadmap and a strategy that's based on limited facts.

You want all the facts and details in your defense attorney's hands so when you sit down with them, you're both able to come up with a game plan that makes sense for you, your interests, your right and your freedom.

So, if you're looking to stay out of jail in a credit card fraud related offense in Los Angeles county, you've come to the right place.

Take the first step.  Pick up the phone.  Hire an attorney who's been practicing for nearly 30 years who's worked for the prosecutors and a judge.

The Hedding Law Firm has been defending people charged with fraud cases for decades and getting the best possible results.