California Penal Code Section 530.5 PC: Identity Theft

1. Definition and Elements of the Crime

identity theft

Identity theft is a criminal offense that is broadly defined as using another person's identifying information without consent for fraudulent purposes. Under California Penal Code Section 530.5 PC, identity theft is a serious crime that can carry lengthy prison sentences.

There are four different classes of identity theft that are addressed by California Penal Code Section 530.5 PC:

  1. California Penal Code Section 530.5(a) PC - Unauthorized use of another person's personal identifying information.
  2. California Penal Code Section 530.5(c) PC - Fraudulent possession of another person's personal identifying information.
  3. California Penal Code Section 530.5(d)(1) PC - Fraudulent sale, transfer or conveyance of another person's personal identifying information.
  4. California Penal Code Section 530.5(d)(2) PC - Knowingly selling, transferring or conveying another person's personal identifying information to facilitate its unauthorized use.

Personal identifying information can include a wide range of information, including names, addresses, social security numbers, mother's maiden names, account numbers, PIN numbers and passwords, among other things.

2. Related Offenses

Other similar or related offenses include:

  1. False Impersonation - California Penal Code Section 529 PC
  2. Credit Card Fraud - California Penal Code Section 484e PC
  3. Forgery - California Penal Code Section 470 PC
  4. Grand Theft - California Penal Code Section 487 PC

3. Examples

The post office accidentally delivers a new credit card to the wrong address. The man at the address receives the card and notices that it is in his neighbor's name. The man activates the card and uses it to make several purchases. This man could be prosecuted for identity theft under California Penal Code Section 530.5 PC, as well as credit card fraud under California Penal Code Section 484g PC.

In another example, a woman gets a restraining order against her ex-boyfriend following a domestic violence incident. The woman relocates to a new address because she afraid of her ex-boyfriend. The ex-boyfriend hires a private investigator to track down the new address because he intends to violate the restraining order. By doing this, the ex-boyfriend could be prosecuted for identity theft as he acquired personal information for an unlawful purpose. The definition of unlawful purpose is not limited to financial motives. Using personal information to facilitate a violation of a restraining order is considered an unlawful purpose under the law.

4. Defenses to Identity Theft

Identity theft requires that the personal information must have been used or acquired for an unlawful purpose. There may be situations where another person's identity is used without a fraudulent purpose. In these cases, the defendant would not be criminally liable under the identity theft statute.

Many large financial institutions will simply write off losses when one its customers claims to be a victim of identity theft. Because of this, someone may find themselves falsely accused of identity theft by another person (such as an ex-roommate, ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend) who is simply trying to avoid their own debts.

5. Penalties

Under California Penal Code Section 530.5 PC, identity theft is a "wobbler" which can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the criminal history of the defendant, the extent of the loss caused by the crime, and other relevant factors.

If charged as a misdemeanor and convicted, a defendant can be sentenced to up to a year in jail, substantial court fines and victim restitution. If charged as a felony, the defendant can be sentenced to up to three years in prison.

It is important to note that each time a defendant uses another person's personal information, it is considered a separate and distinct violation of the identity theft statute. Thus a defendant can be charged with and penalized for multiple counts of identity theft even where there is only one named victim.

6. Criminal Defense for Identity Theft Cases

Identity theft is a serious white collar offense that prosecutors do not treat lightly. If you or someone you know are being investigated for identity theft, it is very important that you speak with an experienced Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney as soon as possible. Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience whose previous service included an assignment in the elite Major Fraud section of the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office. As a result of his experience, Mr. Kraut is considered one of the best attorneys in Los Angeles for fighting identity theft charges.

For more information about identity theft, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1480, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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