Identity theft is one of the fastest growing type of criminal activities in the nation and California is one of the epicenters of this type of white collar crime. As a result, the state is one of the leaders in prosecuting these serious crimes. In fact, California was the first state to create a specific agency designed specifically to protect the identity of its citizens and the San Diego District Attorney even has a specialized unit working to investigate and prosecute these crimes. Because San Diego County and the state of California both this crime so seriously, it is critical that anyone accused immediately contact a lawyer experienced in defending suspects accused of identity theft.
What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft, as covered in the California Penal Code section 530.5 (PC), is the crime of obtaining personal identifying information belonging to another person and using it for an unlawful purpose or in a fraudulent manner. For the purpose of the law, identifying information includes a person’s name, address, telephone number, bank account numbers, driver’s license number, passport information and more. In fact, the state’s mail theft law is a subsection of the greater identity theft law, since it is such a common method of identity theft.
Common examples of identity theft include providing someone else’s driver’s license after being stopped by police, opening a credit card under someone else’s name, or using someone else’s social security number to get medical care.
In order for the prosecution to prove someone is guilty of identity theft, they must show that the defendant obtained someone’s personal information without that person’s consent, and that you intentionally used that identifying information for fraudulent purposes. In other words, if your grandmother told you that you could cash her check for her and keep the money, this would not be considered identity theft and would absolutely be legal. A skilled identity theft defense attorney in San Diego can often argue that there is simply not enough proof to show that you acted willfully, without the consent of the victim, with the intent of committing fraud.
What is the Penalty for Identity Theft in California?
Identity theft is wobbler under 530.5 (PC), meaning it is punishable as either a misdemeanor or felony offense. When charged as a misdemeanor, the penalty is no more than one year in county jail and $1,000 in fines. As a felony though, a conviction can mean a sentence of up to 3 years in state prison and up to $10,000 in fines. No matter what the specifics of the case, if you are convicted, you will be required to pay restitution to the victim.
Search and Seizure
Investigators of these crimes will generally search the home of suspected identity thieves and seize anything they believe may have been used to perpetrate the crime, including computers, specialized printing equipment, digital cameras, and other electronics. Crimes involving computer seizures are particularly difficult for both the prosecution and defense, which is why it is so important to work with an identity theft defense attorney in San Diego with experience handling complex computer crime cases.
While it is always beneficial to have an attorney prior to having your property searched, even if you hired your lawyer after the fact, he may be able to show that evidence was retrieved from your home without proper constitutional procedures -rendering certain pieces of evidence inadmissible in court.
Similar Criminal Charges
On top of charges related to violations of 530.5 (PC), other common theft and white collar criminal charges filed against those suspected of breaking the identity theft laws of California include grand theft, petty theft, credit card fraud, forgery, using falsified documents, check fraud, insurance fraud, false impersonation, elder abuse and more. Potential consequences for the offense include incarceration in prison, massive fines and mandatory restitution being made to the victim(s). These crimes are all felonies and all require a skilled criminal defense.
If you have been accused of, or believe you may be charged with, violating any type of identity theft laws in California, please contact Peter M. Liss as soon as possible. You can schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case by calling (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024.