Identity theft encompasses a range of topics, and you can face an identity theft charge even when you have done nothing wrong. While West Covina prosecutors can charge you on a state level, the federal government has begun to heavily regulate identity theft cases and take additional action.
While you can face a state-level charge, you can also face a federal charge. Combining both levels results in steep penalties. There are several elements the prosecution must prove to get a guilty verdict, and they must prove to the state judge and jury that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Talk to a West Covina identity theft lawyer from the Simmrin Law Group today.
Identity Theft in California
California considers identity theft when someone uses someone else’s personal identifying information for their benefit, such as for gathering goods or services without the other person’s consent. Parties who receive, transfer or store the information will face criminal penalties to the same degree as the person who stole the information.
You can receive information you were not looking for and face an identity theft charge for simply opening a message. An identity theft lawyer in West Covina does not believe you should go to jail or face fines for an identity crime you did not commit.
For a free legal consultation with a identity theft lawyer serving West Covina, call (310) 928-9347
Identify Theft Charges Are on the Rise
With the invention of the internet also came the invention of cyber crimes. Identity theft was present before the internet, but it has become more accessible after the internet. The introduction of social media has also made an impact on how accessible personal information is and how easy it is for real thieves to steal information and use it for their benefit.
You may receive a message from someone you have met in real life that provides identifying information.
You do not question it because you are friendly with the person and later find out the account was fake or there was a hack. Now you are in possession of someone’s data. When you are accused of identity theft, it is imperative that you contact a criminal defense attorney with experience with identity theft cases.
West Covina Identity Theft Lawyer Near Me (310) 928-9347
Personal Identifying Information
You might be unsure of what personal identifying information is under California law. In broad terms, it is information that can identify a person or an entity that someone else can use to establish accounts and purchases. Prime examples include:
- Date of birth
- Place of employment
- Telephone number
- School ID number
- Health insurance number
- Social security number
- Credit card numbers
- Bank account information
- Alien registration
- Passport data
- PINs and passwords
The California Penal Code also uses the broad phrase “an equivalent form of identification,” which can complicate matters further. Some of the items on the list are shocking. Simply having a person’s name and telephone number alone does not constitute identity theft – you must have an intent to use it.
With social media, you will have some of this information in your possession without even looking. Many profiles will include places of employment, date of birth, maiden names, and complete legal names. You should not face a penalty for having a Facebook friend who shares all their information with the world.
Online Identity Theft
In California, online identity theft is a wobbler offense meaning it can be a felony or misdemeanor. The prosecutor will determine the charges and the severity too. A West Covina criminal defense lawyer can work to ensure you get the lowest charge possible in an identity theft case.
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Jury Instructions Are Critical
Many West Covina identity theft cases go to trial, and it will be in the hands of a jury to decide whether you are innocent or guilty. When creating a defense for trial, we will look at what the prosecution will attempt to use against you. While we will build a solid defense, it is essential to consider the jury’s instructions regarding your case.
Your West Covina identity theft attorney will also look at the jury instructions since that will impact how the jury moves to resolve your case. The jury will receive instructions on what the state considers identity theft, the prosecution will need to prove this element exists, and we will need to put doubt in the jury about the same elements. Under jury instruction 2040 regarding identity theft, it states the defendant is not an authorized user of the personal identifying information.
Essentially the prosecution needs to prove you willfully obtained another person’s information. The keyword is willful. We can focus on how the information came to you and show that you did not go looking for the info.
Intent to Use Information without Consent
Another element the prosecutor will need to prove is that you intended to use the information for your benefit without the consent of the person whose information was. Simply having information is not enough for a solid prosecution.
The final element is proving that you did not have permission to use the information. A friend can ask you to do them a favor and go to the grocery store using their credit card to buy food for a party. That doesn’t constitute identity theft. If the person did not allow you to use their card, that could be identity theft per California statutes.
Witnesses Can Help Consent
Witness statements are vital to showing consent. The prosecution will try to find witnesses that say you were the guilty party. Witness the prosecution will include:
- The person whose information was stolen
- An association or corporation where the defendant used the information
You will need witnesses who say the contrary and that you did have access and unauthorized use of the personal information. Witnesses are not a common ploy in identity theft cases, but their testimony can go a long way in proving your innocence.
An Identity Theft Attorney in West Covina Is Ready to Fight for Your Freedom
Jail time and heavy fines are the outcomes of an identity theft conviction in West Covina. With the right defense strategy, the Simmrin Law Group can avoid such harsh penalties, resulting in you paying a smaller fine, probation, or a complete dismissal. You will need a West Covina identity theft lawyer with the resources and knowledge to handle these cases.
You cannot trust any criminal defense attorney with your life; you need the experience of Simmrin Law Group in West Covina.