Identity Theft | California Penal Code 530.5 PC

California Identity Theft is charged under Penal Code 530.5 PC criminalizing the willful use of another person’s identifying information regardless of whether actual harm or loss results. In other words, the statute is violated by anyone who obtains personal information and uses it for unlawful purposes without that person’s consent.

Identity theft formally called “unauthorized use of personal identifying information”, it does not require intent to defraud. For instance, it is sufficient if a person willfully uses another person’s identification without permission in an attempt to cash a check.[1] It also occurs in conjunction with credit card fraud. However, it may also occur when a person uses false identification to avoid criminal prosecution or to obtain goods or services under a false name.

Personal identifying information may include names, address, telephone number, health insurance number, tax identification numbers, driver’s license, social security number, mother’s maiden name, checking account number, date of birth, and more. There are several ways identity theft can be accomplished. In a grander sophisticated scheme, the more likely someone could face federal charges. Some examples of PC 530.5 include:

  • Providing another person’s information to a police officer to avoid being arrested;
  • Using another person’s California driver’s license to purchase alcohol when you’re under 21;
  • Selling another person’s identification card to another knowing it will be used to facilitate purchasing at a retail store;
  • Applying and receiving a credit card in someone else’s name;
  • Stealing another person’s mail.[2]

Legal Defenses to Identity Theft – Penal Code 530.5

Identity theft can be carried out through different means. Several forms of identity theft however, require a defendant to harbor the specific intent to defraud. Proving specific intent is extremely burdensome upon the prosecutor especially if a defendant did not make an incriminating admission. Actual knowledge is additionally difficult to prove and is often speculative upon the prosecutor. Moreover, it is difficult to prove what a person is actually thinking and differentiating intent from ordinary negligence, accident, or by mistake. Consent is another defense where a person gave permission to use their information. This could be accomplished by purchasing an item for someone under their direction or as a favor to them.

Identity Theft Punishment in California

Because PC 530.5 does not involve any violence or bodily injury to another, and it is often referred to as a white-collar offense, it is ordinarily punishable in the local county jail and not state prison. This means an experienced Orange County theft crimes attorney can negotiate with the prosecution for a split sentence. Sentencing for identify is depending on the circumstances as follows:

  • Selling or Transferring: A person who sells, transfers, or conveys personal identifying information with actual knowledge that the unlawfully obtained personal identifying information will be used to violate PC 530.5(a) faces 16 months, 2, or 3 years in the county jail.[3]
  • Intent to Defraud: A person who acquires or retains possession of another person’s personal identifying information with the intent to defraud makes it punishable as a misdemeanor carrying up to one (1) year in the county jail. However, if you have a previous identity theft conviction or the alleged crime is carried out against ten (10) or more purported victims, then the crime becomes a wobbler making it punishable in the county jail for up to one (1) year or 16 months, 2, or 3 years in the county jail.[4]
  • Unlawful Purpose: A person who willfully obtains personal identifying information of another person, and uses that information for any unlawful purpose, including to obtain, or attempt to obtain, credit, goods, services, real property, or medical information without the other person’s knowledge or permission, is a wobbler making it punishable in the county jail for up to one (1) year or 16 months, 2, or 3 years in the county jail.[5]

Contact Us to Schedule a Free Consultation

If you have been arrested, charged, or are under investigation for identity under PC 530.5, then there is no question that you must consult with a respected and experienced Orange County criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Contact the Law Offices of John D. Rogers to schedule your free case evaluation. Our office will listen to your side of the story and assist in mounting your defense.



Legal References:

[1] People v. Hagedorn (2005) 125 Cal.App.4th 734.

[2] See Penal Code 530.5(e)

[3] See Penal Code 530.5(c)(1)

[4] See Penal Code 530.5(d)(1)

[5] See Penal Code 530.5(a)

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