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Identity Theft Laws in California – Penal Code 530.5

Review of the California Crime of PC 530.5 Identity Theft

California Penal Code 530.5 PC defines the crime of identity theft as using someone's personal identifying information without their consent and using it for fraudulent purposes.

PC 530.5 identity theft is a “wobbler” crime that can be filed as a misdemeanor or felony.

Identity Theft Laws in California – Penal Code 530.5 PC
PC 530.5 identity theft is described as fraudulently using another person's identifying information.

Personal identifying information can include names, addresses, phone numbers, social security numbers, account numbers, PIN numbers, passwords, and passport information.

As technological advances have made private information more accessible, identity theft cases have become increasingly common. Law enforcement is going to great lengths to curb identity theft crimes.

California represents the third-highest rate of identity theft in the nation, with over 1000,000 complaints per year.

The prevalence of the crime and the potential damage to victims have led prosecutors to aggressively crack down on identity theft.

Our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys provide an overview below of identity theft laws to give readers valuable insights into the legal system.

California Identity Theft Definition - PC 530.5

Penal Code 530.5 PC generally describes an identity theft crime as willfully obtaining personal identifying information of another person and using that information for any unlawful purpose.  PC 530.5 defines identity theft as:

  • “Anyone who willfully obtains personal identifying information of another person, and uses it for any unlawful purpose, including to obtain, or an attempt to obtain, credit, goods, services, real property, or medical information without consent, is guilty of a public offense.” 

Unlawful purpose refers to obtaining or attempting to obtain credit, goods, services, or medical information in the name of the other person without consent.  

California Identity Theft Law — PC 530.5
It's not necessary to prove the victim suffered a loss as just the attempt is sufficient for a conviction.

The term “willfully” means the act was on purpose, not an accident. “Fraud” is also a deliberate act to obtain an unlawful gain, or cause another person to suffer a loss. 

Proving loss is not necessary 

It should be noted, however, in order to obtain a conviction under PC 530.5, it's not necessary to prove a person was actually defrauded or suffered a loss. In other words, just the attempt is sufficient to be charged and convicted of identity theft.

In many identity theft cases, a person will assume someone's identity to steal money.  

Although it is a longstanding crime, the laws surrounding identity theft have recently evolved.  

The rise of the internet has changed the way people steal identities. California laws now restrict specific digital activities that can lead to identity theft.

What is Personal Identifying Information? 

California PC 530.5 prohibits anyone from stealing “personal identifying information,” including:

  • name, address, telephone number,
  • date of birth,
  • mother's maiden name,
  • health insurance, taxpayer, or school identification numbers,
  • state driver's license number,
  • social security number,
  • place of employment or employee identification number,
  • school identification,
  • PIN or checking/savings account numbers,
  • government passport number,
  • alien registration number,
  • electronic data (identification number, address, routing code),
  • birth or death certificate information,
  • credit or debit card number.

Penalties for Identity Theft in California

Legal penalties for Penal Code 530.5 identity theft depend on prior convictions and the severity of the crime.

In California, identity theft is known as a wobbler, meaning it can lead to a misdemeanor or a felony. If convicted of identity theft, it's punishable by the following.

Penalties for Identity Theft in California
A felony PC 530.5 identity theft conviction is punishable by up to 3 years in jail.

Misdemeanor identity theft conviction faces imprisonment:

  • in a county jail not to exceed one year,
  • a fine not to exceed $1,000, and
  • summary probation;

Felony identity theft conviction faces imprisonment:

  • in a county jail not to exceed three years,
  • a fine not to exceed $10,000, and
  • formal probation.

Immigration consequences

A conviction under Penal Code 530.5 could have adverse immigration consequences for committing a crime involving moral turpitude. An undocumented immigrated could be deported or denied entry into the United States

Loss of gun rights 

If you are convicted of a felony crime of PC 530.5 identity theft, then you can lose your right to own or possess a firearm. Under California law, convicted felons are prohibited from possessing a gun.

Related California Crimes

Penal Code 484e PC – credit card fraud,

Penal Code 470 PC – forgery,

Penal Code 476 PC – check fraud,

Penal Code 529 PC – false personation,

Penal Code 487 PC – grand theft.

Defenses for PC 530.5 Identity Theft 

Our criminal defense firm can help you fight identity theft charges no matter how big or small. Whether you face a misdemeanor or a felony, we will work to achieve a favorable outcome. Some common defenses include:

  • no intent to defraud,
  • not a willful act,
  • no unlawful purpose,
  • false allegation.

In order to obtain a conviction, the prosecutor must show you acted with the specific intent to defraud someone. Perhaps we can make an argument for this requisite intent.

We might may be able to prove you obtained someone's information but did not commit a crime.

We might be able to make a reasonable augment you didn't use personal identifying information for unlawful purposes.

Defenses for PC 530.5 Identity Theft in California
Call our law firm to review your legal options.

The white collar crime of PC 530.5 identity theft carries harsh penalties if you are convicted.

If you are under investigation, or already charged with identity theft, you should consult with our experienced criminal defense lawyers immediately.

We might be able to negotiate with prosecutors for reduced charges, but can also create a defense that proves instrumental to your case.

California theft laws require prosecutors to prove that the defendant used this information with fraudulent intent. We may be able to create reasonable doubt on this crucial factor.

Our skilled defense attorneys provide quality representation for any type of identity theft crimes throughout all Southern California courts.

Eisner Gorin LLP is located at 1999 Avenue of the Stars, 11th Fl., Los Angeles, CA 90067.

Our main office is at 14401 Sylvan St #112 Van Nuys, CA 91401.

Call our law firm to review the details of your case at (877) 781-1570.

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