The short answer is jail time for credit card theft in California ranges from six months to one year. However, the detailed answer is more complex. The specific amount of time you may spend in county jail for credit card theft in California depends on the severity and circumstances of your criminal case.
For instance, credit card theft can be a petty or grand theft crime. The amount of county jail penalty is different for each crime. The amount of jail time for credit card theft also depends on the type of offense you are accused of committing.
Credit Card Grand Theft Penalties
In California, grand theft is taking money or property valued at more than $950. You do not have to take the $950 at one time. You can face credit card grand theft if you allegedly took that amount over a six-month period.
The months must, however, be consecutive. For example, this means you allegedly took $950 from January to June. Punishment for a grand theft crime is up to one year in county jail and a $1,000 fine.
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Is There Jail Time for Credit Card Petty Theft?
Credit card petty theft is a less serious crime than a grand theft crime. It involves taking property or money valued under $950. If convicted, you may be sentenced to six months in county jail. A fine of $1,000 may also be part of the punishment.
Jail Time for Fraudulent Use of Account or Access Card
Fraudulent use of account information or a credit or debit card in California is illegal. The crime involves altering, stealing, forging, or counterfeiting a revoked or expired debit or credit card for financial gain. An expired or revoked credit or debit card means that the card is no longer valid.
You can be accused of changing the debt or credit card in some way to make it valid so you can obtain property, goods, services or money. If you are convicted of fraudulent use of account information or access card, the jail time depends on the amount of money you allegedly received in the process.
It is six months in county jail if less than $950 was obtained by using a fraudulent credit card. It is one year in county jail if more than $950 was obtained through fraudulent means.
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Publishing Credit Card Information Convictions
According to California Penal Code 484j, it is illegal to publish credit card information. The term “publishing” refers to any type of communication, such as written, verbal, or online communication.
It is illegal to communicate that information about a bank account or credit card such as ATM PIN numbers or banking account numbers. Publishing credit card information is a misdemeanor and publishable by six months in county jail.
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Fraudulent Possession and Transfer of a Credit Card
To possess a credit card means to have another person’s credit card. To transfer a credit card means to knowingly give, receive, or sell that person’s information without their consent. In California, this crime is considered a “wobbler.”
A wobbler means the state can charge you with a misdemeanor or felony. As a misdemeanor, fraudulent possession and transfer of a credit card has a county jail sentence of one year because it is grand theft.
Depending on the circumstances and facts of the case, the crime can be a felony. A felony comes with prison time. If convicted of the felony fraudulent possession and transfer of a credit card, the punishment is three years in prison and $10,000 fine.
Forging Credit Card Information
If you are accused of forging credit card information, you may face a misdemeanor or felony charge. Forging credit card information involves signing another person’s name during a transaction without consent. It also includes presenting a counterfeit credit card or altering a debit card.
Misdemeanor forging credit card information is punishable by one year in county jail because it is considered grand theft. Depending on the facts of the situation and your prior criminal record, forging credit card information charges may be increased to a felony. Prison time for forging credit card information is three years in prison.
Conviction for Counterfeiting Credit Cards
Counterfeiting credit cards in California is a crime that refers to changing, altering or modifying any part of a credit or debit card with the intent to deceive. This means you are accused of changing the credit card to make a business or another individual believe it is a valid card.
It also refers to trafficking, or making credit cards, with the intent to deceive and giving or selling them. If convicted of a misdemeanor counterfeiting credit cards, it is at least one year in county jail. This crime is considered grand theft. A felony conviction is punishable by three years in prison.
Federal Charges and Penalties
Another complication for credit card theft cases is if the transaction crosses state lines. If this happens, you could also face federal credit card theft charges on top of the state ones. Federal penalties for credit card fraud are much more strict.
Federal law punishes credit card fraud by up to 10 years in prison in most cases, though this can go to 20 years depending on the case. This is a much stronger penalty than California’s, and one that cannot be dismissed as easily.
Thanks to the internet, it’s trivial for a transaction to be conducted across state lines and involve federal law. For instance, if someone steals a credit card and uses it to buy something from Amazon, that can get federal attention.
Protecting Yourself From Credit Card Theft
Despite the penalties, credit card fraud happens all the time. Protecting yourself from fraud can help protect others with access to your account information from getting charged with fraud by mistake.
The FTC has a list of helpful tips and information on how to protect yourself from credit card theft and fraud. We encourage you to follow these, especially for joint accounts.
Legal Defense for Credit Card Theft in California
Just because you are accused of credit card theft does not mean you will automatically be convicted of the crime. With the Simmrin Law Group representing you, we will aggressively fight the credit card charge for you.
If there was a lack of intent to defraud or a case of mistaken identity, it may be possible to avoid a conviction. Contact our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers immediately for help to avoid needless jail or prison time for a credit card theft charge.