Identity theft is one of the fastest growing types 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 crimes and was the first state to create a specific agency explicitly focused on protecting its citizens’ identity. 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 take this crime so seriously, anyone accused of this charge should immediately contact an identity theft defense lawyer.
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. The state’s mail theft law is even a subsection of the greater identity theft law since it is such a common method of committing this offense.
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
- using someone else’s social security number or other medical information to get healthcare
To prove someone is guilty of identity theft, the prosecution must show that the defendant obtained someone’s personal information without that person’s consent and that they 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 not enough proof to show that you acted willfully, without the victim’s consent, with the intent to commit 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. A conviction for felony identity theft is punishable by a sentence of up to 3 years in state prison and $10,000 in fines. No matter 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 complicated for both the prosecution and defense, so you must work with an identity theft defense attorney in San Diego with experience handling complex computer crime cases.
It is always beneficial to hire an attorney before having your property searched. However, if you hired your lawyer after the fact, he may be able to show evidence retrieved from your home violated proper constitutional procedures. Showing evidence violated your rights could render certain pieces of evidence inadmissible in court.
Similar Criminal Charges
- grand theft
- petty theft
- credit card fraud
- 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.
Can Identity Theft Leave You Facing Charges?
Most identity theft cases leave the victim facing credit problems and bills for services they did not purchase. But if someone steals your identity, it can even result in your arrest. While this consequence of identity theft occurs less frequently than the more common financial ones, it can easily be much more problematic.
When you notice your driver’s license, passport, or other identification has been stolen, report the theft to the police. Simply having a police report can help protect you if you are later charged with a crime involving someone illegally using your identification. If you are accused of a crime due to the theft of your personal information, a San Diego identity theft lawyer can help ensure your rights are protected and that you do not do anything that may hurt your defense.
If you have been accused of, or believe you may be charged with, violating California’s identity theft law, please contact Peter M. Liss as soon as possible. You can schedule a free consultation to discuss your case by calling (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024.