Defending Against Identity Theft Charges in the State of California

Identity theft is one of several computer or internet-related crimes in the state of California. If you are convicted of identity theft, you face penalties of fines, jail time, and reputational damage.  As such, it is important that you rely on the skill and expertise of an experienced California criminal defense attorney.

On the rise in the digital age, identity theft is an increasingly common crime in California and elsewhere in the United States. In California, identity theft is governed by Penal Code 530.5 PC.  Under the law, it is illegal to willfully obtain personal identifying information of another person for any unlawful purpose. As with any criminal statute, it is necessary to unpack every word.  “Willful” is synonymous with words like “intentional” and “purposeful.” To act willfully, then, is to act with purpose. In other words, if you are prosecuted for identity theft, the prosecutor must prove that you intended to steal the identity of another person – that it did not occur by accident.  

“Personal identifying information” is the next string of key language in the statute. It includes things like social security numbers, credit card information, driver’s license numbers, pin numbers, pass codes, answers to security questions, date of birth, phone number, address, and more. Basically, personal identifying information is the kind of information that allows one to verify his or her identify, make financial transactions, and travel by plane.

“Another person” is easy language. It means someone other than you. “Unlawful purpose” is language much more ripe for exploration. Under Penal Code 530.5 PC, any unlawful purpose includes efforts to obtain or attempt to obtain credit, goods, services, property, or medical information without consent. As stated at the outset of this article, such unlawful activity may be punished by fines and imprisonment.

The language of law can be rather abstract, so it is helpful to bring concepts to life via real world examples. One reason people illicitly obtain the personal identifying information of others is for the illegal purpose of using the other person’s credit card. Put plainly, a common motivation is money. In an age where one can make purchases online with the click of a button or in a store with the swipe of a card, identity theft is all too easy. Other times, the purpose of identity theft may be to access personally sensitive information such as photographs to cause another person to suffer emotionally. An additional motivation for identity theft is to evade criminal liability by pretending to be someone else.  

Identity theft is a serious crime with serious consequences in the state of California. If you have been charged with identity theft, reach out to a skilled and experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney. A skilled attorney will challenge the prosecution’s efforts to establish the elements of the crime. With your freedom and reputation at stake, rely on an experienced attorney to defend against the charges brought by the state.