PENAL CODE 484E THROUGH 484J: CREDIT CARD FRAUD IN CALIFORNIA
California has several statutes defining and penalizing crimes involving credit card and debit card fraud.
PC 484 defines the crime as petty theft, but it also has subdivisions addressing the specific crimes of committing the various types of theft by way of credit or debit card. These statutes prohibit anyone from using a credit or debit card in order to receive goods, services, or money they are not entitled to receive. Below are listed the California statutes that address these crimes, which consist of stealing, counterfeiting, altering, and forging of cards:
- PC 484e – stolen credit cards
- PC 484f – forgery of credit cards
- PC 484g – fraudulent use of an access card
- PC 484h – credit card fraud by a retailer
- PC 484i – counterfeiting credit cards
PC 484j – publishing credit card information
PC 484E – STOLEN CREDIT CARDS
PC 484e consists of:
- Selling or possession a credit card, or
- Credit card information, such as,
- Account number, security number, or PIN number,
- Without the permission of the lawful owner.
Additionally, you can also be in violation of 484e with the mere possession of the contraband items. Finally, no actual monetary loss to the victim is necessary to be convicted of PC 484e.
PC 484e Penalties
PC 484e is classified as grand theft, which is a “wobbler,” meaning that it can be filed as a misdemeanor or a felony at the prosecution’s discretion. If convicted as a misdemeanor, the penalties include up to 1 year in county jail and a $1,000 fine. If convicted as a felony, the penalties include 16 months, 2 or 3 years in jail and a fine up to $10,000.
PC 484F – FORGERY OF CREDIT CARD INFORMATION
PC 484f relates to the forging of credit card information. There are two types of illegal conduct covered by this code. PC 484f consists of:
- Altering of an existing credit card, and
- Signing of someone’s name without their knowledge or permission,
- In a credit card transaction
PC 484f Penalties
Like PC 484e, PC 484f is a “wobbler.” A misdemeanor conviction carries up to 1 year in county jail and a fine, while a felony conviction carries up to 3 years in jail, a fine, and victim restitution.
PC 484G – FRAUDULENT USE OF CREDIT CARD INFORMATION
PC 484g describes the fraudulent use of a credit card or credit account, and is focused towards any person who knowingly uses an: expired, fake, stolen, altered, forged, counterfeit credit card to attempt to complete a transaction for an item of value. Actual loss to the business or financial institution is not required.
PC 484g Penalties
PC 484g is charged as either petty theft or grand theft. If the value of items was less that $950, the crime will be charged as a misdemeanor, meaning the punishment is up to 1 year in county jail. However, if the value of the items is greater than $950, it is charged as a felony, thereby carrying up to 3 years in jail.
PC 484H – CREDIT CARD FRAUD BY RETAILER
PC 484h relates to retailers who engage in credit card fraud. This happens when a retailer:
- Knowingly charges a credit card for;
- Good or services the merchant did not approve, or;
- Accepts payment using a credit or debit card;
- The merchant knows is stolen, fraudulent, or otherwise unlawful.
PC 484h Penalties
Just like PC 484g, PC 484h is charged as either petty theft or grand theft. The same rules apply here, meaning if the amount of the items is under $950, then it will be charged as a misdemeanor. If the amount of the items is valued at over $950, it will be charged as a felony.
PC 484I – COUNTERFEITING CREDIT CARDS
PC 484i related to the counterfeiting of credit or debit cards, most notably:
- Manufacturing, and
- Possession of counterfeit cards, or
- Credit card making devices.
Like above, the prosecuting agency does not have to prove defendant caused a financial loss to a third party, or intended or attempted to cause such a loss. Additionally, just possessing the counterfeit cards or counterfeit making equipment is enough to be convicted under PC 484i.
PC 484i Penalties
This crime is also a “wobbler,” meaning it can be punished as a misdemeanor or felony and it carries the same penalties as listed above.
PC 484J – PUBLISHING CREDIT CARD INFORMATION
PC 484j relates to the illegal activity of publishing stolen credit card information. Typically, this occurs via the internet, but it may also occur via mail, in person, or by other methods. The credit card information includes publishing: PIN numbers, account numbers, passwords, or other confidential credit card information.
PC 484j Penalties
A person found guilty of violating PC 484j is guilty of a misdemeanor offense, which therefore carries up to 1 year jail time and a $1,000 fine.
CALIFORNIA CREDIT CARD FRAUD PENALTIES OVERVIEW
If you read the above sections, you likely noticed most of the listed crimes can be charges as “wobblers” in California. This means the prosecution agency has the discretion to charge the violation as a misdemeanor or felony. Proving actual losses is not required under most subsection of PC 484. However, a loss of over $950 will typically result in the defendant being charged with a felony. There is one exception to this rule of thumb, and that is PC 484j, which is always filed as a misdemeanor.
There are factors which determine how a credit card case is filed, including:
- The intended or actual loss amount to the victim
- The defendant’s prior record
- The relatively more or less aggravated nature of the conduct.
RELATED OFFENSES IN CALIFORNIA
- PC 530.5 – identity theft
- PC 503 – unauthorized computer access
- PC 459 – burglary
- PC 368 – elder abuse
- PC 182 – conspiracy
HOW TO DEFEND AGAINST PC 484 CHARGES
Our experienced team of criminal defense lawyers has various strategies to defend against these charges, including:
- Lack of intent
- False allegation
- Insufficient evidence
- Good-faith mistake
- Unlawful search and seizure.
If you, or someone you know, has been charged with one of these crimes, please contact our office as soon as possible, as our team of experienced criminal defense lawyers may be able to help through prefiling intervention. These actions may be able to reduce, or even dismiss your case before trial.