California Penal Code 530.5 PC
PC 530.5 – Identity Theft
Identity Theft – Table of Contents
- PC 530.5 Overview
- PC 530.5 Penalties
- PC 530.5 Prosecuting
- PC 530.5 Potential Defenses
- Identity Theft – Hire Us
“Identity Theft” is the common term for the various prohibited acts under California Penal Code 530.5 PC, “False personation and cheats.”
Broadly, this covers any willful act of obtaining personal identifying information of another person to use for any unlawful purpose (to defraud). Notably, the statute is written broadly and as a result, “unlawful purposes” includes a wide range of acts.
Specifically, under PC 530.5(a), prohibited acts include obtaining credit, goods, services, real property or medical information. Also, the statute prohibits the mere attempt as well, and not only completed wrongful acts.
Similarly, under California Penal Code 530.55, PC, “personal identifying information” for purposes of a charge for identity theft is very broad and includes:
- name, address, telephone number, date of birth
- health insurance number
- school identification number
- driver’s license or identification number
- social security number
- employment information including taxpayer identification number
- mother’s maiden name
- bank account information including PIN and password
- passport and alien registration information
- birth or death information
- credit card number
In addition, the also considers “personal identifying information” to include biometric data such as fingerprint, facial scan identifiers, voiceprint, retina or iris image, other unique physical representations as well as unique electronic data. Clearly, the legislature intended the criminal statute to be very broad as a way to deter identity theft as well as protect individuals.
For example, PC 530.5(b) specifically requires that the name of any person who is the victim of identity theft be removed from court records. In other words, if someone unlawfully uses your identity and is convicted of a crime, your name will not be listed as the defendant since you did not commit that crime.
A violation of identity theft under PC 530.5 is considered a “wobbler,” meaning the crime can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony depending on the facts and circumstances of the individual case.
Misdemeanor Penalties include:
- up to 1 year in county jail and
- a fine of up to $1,000
- summary (informal) probation.
Felony Penalties include:
- up to 3 years in state prison and
- a fine of up to $10,000
- felony (formal) probation.
The prosecutor will consider many factors to determine whether to charge PC 530.5 as a misdemeanor or a felony include the facts of the case and criminal history. Since the penalties for a misdemeanor are significantly less than for a felony, an experienced criminal defense attorney can persuade the prosecutor to file a misdemeanor rather than a felony. A felony conviction has significant consequences that extend beyond the actual period of incarceration and/or fine.
For example, a felony conviction can impact your right to vote, possess a handgun as well as negatively effect your employment, housing and immigration status. Make sure you have an experienced criminal defense attorney advocating from you as soon as you are charged with any crime.
Moreover, an attorney can also help you avoid a trial by reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of the evidence and help you make an informed choice regarding any plea bargain.
Most importantly, an experienced defense attorney can persuade the prosecutor to drop charges when the evidence is weak. Of course, the goal of any attorney is to ensure that you beat your case, but you don’t have to go to trial to win your case. Trials are expensive and stressful, so avoiding a trial by negotiating a favorable outcome will save you time and money.
As with any criminal case, the prosecutor must prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. In other words, you can and should win your case without providing any evidence if the prosecutor fails to meet this very high burden. An experienced criminal defense attorney can review the evidence with you and make sure the prosecutor acts ethically and does not violate any of your constitutional rights.
Broadly, the prosecutor must prove the following to gain a conviction for PC 530.5, Identity Theft PC:
- a willful act, including an attempt (not an accident)
- personal identifying information was obtained (without consent)
- an unlawful purpose (resulting in a benefit for you and/or a loss to the victim)
Notably, the offense need only be attempted, and not completed, and there does not have to be any actual benefit or loss, merely the attempt.
Other subsections of PC 530.5 specify additional acts that are prohibited.
- Section 530.5 (3) specifies the penalties for identity theft of a group of 10 people or more;
- Section 530.5 (3)(d)(1) prohibits the act of defrauding, selling, transferring or conveying the personal identifying information of another without consent;
- Section 530.5 (3)(d)(2) makes it a crime to have knowledge that someone’s individual identifying information has been obtained with the purpose of committing fraud;
- Section 530.5(e) specifies that mail theft is included as identity theft.
Being accused, arrested and charged with any crime is scary, especially when the possible penalties are serious. Moreover, when the crime is defined so broadly, like identity theft, it is important to have your attorney explain the law, the facts and the allegations.
Often, when a statute is so broad, the accused has a reasonable explanation for the situation and your attorney can present this information to the prosecutor and request the charges be dropped. That’s why it is important to retain legal counsel as soon as possible.
An experienced defense attorney can help you navigate the complexities of criminal law from the moment of an arrest. Moreover, an attorney can help evaluate the evidence and formulate a winning defense strategy.
Common defenses for a charge under CA Penal Code 530.5 PC, Identity Theft, include:
- no willful act
- no personal identifying information
- consent to use the identifying information
- no unlawful purpose
- false allegation or mistake
More importantly, an attorney can ensure your constitutional rights are not violated either accidentally or purposely by law enforcement or the prosecutor. Not only can your attorney ensure you beat your case, but an experienced criminal defense attorney will protect your rights.
If you have been charged with Identity Theft, it is important to contact a skilled criminal defense attorney right away. Seppi Esfandi is an Expert Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney who has over 20 years of practice defending a variety of criminal cases, including PC 530.5, Identity Theft.
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