Identity theft is considered a serious crime in Los Angeles and throughout California. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office created a special unit dedicated to prosecuting identity theft crimes; they aggressively file cases and pursue convictions in all identity theft cases no matter how minor. If you are facing an identity theft charge, it is critical that you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your case and ensure your rights are protected.
Identity theft encompasses a broad category of offenses which run the gamut from mere possession of someone else’s identifying information without their permission to the use of someone else’s identity to obtain credit, goods or services.
Identity theft laws in California are constructed in such a way that someone can be convicted of a felony identity theft crime even if the victim suffers no financial harm. In other words, even if you do not attempt to purchase products from a store with a fraudulent gift card or a stolen credit card number, and even if the person whose identity was stolen was not financially harmed, you will still be charged with identity theft.
Often people are caught up in major identity theft rings without realizing it. Someone may have only deposited one bad check in a bank account for a friend, shopped with a gift card that turned out to be funded with a stolen credit card, or signed somebody else’s name to an official document only to find out later that you are part of a major identity theft ring. Organizers of major identity theft schemes often keep other participants in the dark about the extent of the enterprise. Sometimes people are wrongly accused of identity theft altogether due to “guilt by association”.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Issues in Alternative Sentencing
There are many instances where a defendant’s involvement in identity theft is the result of underlying substance abuse or other mental health issues. In these cases, we work with clients to develop a program of treatment. A client’s commitment to treating these underlying issues is often helpful in mitigating the harsh punishments sought by prosecutors in identity theft cases.
Under the Judicial Council of California’s criminal jury instructions, to obtain a conviction for the most common identity theft charge under California Penal Code Section 530.5(a), the prosecution must prove:
- The defendant purposefully and willingly obtained the personal identifying information of another person
- Without the other person’s permission, the defendant used the personal identifying information to obtain (or attempt to obtain) credit, goods, services, real estate, medical information, a restraining order, or for any other unlawful purpose
Some of the most common allegations in identity theft cases include:
- Manufacturing and selling illegal credit cards or driver’s licenses
- Using stolen social security numbers to obtain credit and open bank accounts. Depositing stolen checks in the bank account and then withdrawing the cash
- Allegations that a stolen credit card was used to purchase a retail gift card
- “Skimming” or installing a data capture device inside a credit card reader at a retail store or a gas station
- Computer and Internet crimes such as phishing or spoofing
There are numerous other offenses related to petty theft including computer hacking, grand theft, receiving stolen property, burglary, forgery, and perjury.
If you are facing identity theft charges in Los Angeles, do not hesitate to contact Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Jerod Gunsberg for a free and confidential consultation.