Penal Code 484f PC - Forging Credit Card Information

Penal Code 484f PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to forge credit card information.

In particular, the statute states:

“(a) Every person who, with the intent to defraud, designs, makes, alters, or embosses a counterfeit access card or utters or otherwise attempts to use a counterfeit access card is guilty of forgery.

(b) A person other than the cardholder or a person authorized by him or her who, with the intent to defraud, signs the name of another or of a fictitious person to an access card, sales slip, sales draft, or instrument for the payment of money which evidences an access card transaction, is guilty of forgery.”

This code section is one of several credit card fraud laws in California.

Examples of illegal acts under this statute are:

  • Tim alters a credit card number while making an online purchase to trick the retailer.
  • Marcos makes a fake debit card so that he can defraud the seller of electronic equipment.
  • Isabella signs her friends name when making a credit card transaction for groceries.

Defenses

Luckily, there are several legal defenses that a defendant can raise if accused under PC 484f. These include showing that the defendant:

  • did not act knowingly,
  • did not act with an intent to defraud, and/or
  • was arrested without probable cause.

Penalties

Violations of PC 484f are punished under Penal Code 470 PC, California's forgery law. PC 470 violations are wobbler offenses under California law, meaning they can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

If charged as a misdemeanor, the crime is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year.

If charged as a felony, the offense is punishable by imprisonment in the California state prison for up to three years.

Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:

credit card fraud
Penal Code 484f PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to forge credit card information.

1. What is the legal definition of forging credit card information under Penal Code 484f?

Penal Code 484f PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to forge credit card information.1

A person violates this code section in one of three ways. These are:

  1. altering a credit or debit card,
  2. counterfeiting or creating a fake credit or debit card, and
  3. signing someone else's name during a transaction involving a credit or debit card without that person's consent.2

Please note that in each of these three scenarios, a defendant must act with the “intent to defraud” to be guilty under PC 484f.3 To “defraud” or to do something “fraudulently” means to try and trick someone or to persuade them by dishonest means.

California law defines the “forgery” of credit card information as knowingly and unlawfully altering, creating or using a credit/debit card to one's own benefit and gain.

2. Are there legal defenses to PC 484f violations?

A person can try to challenge a PC 484f accusation by raising a legal defense. A good defense may work to reduce or even dismiss a charge.

Three common defenses to Penal Code 484f charges include:

  1. no knowledge,
  2. no intent to defraud, and/or
  3. no probable cause.

2.1. No knowledge

Please recall that a defendant can only be accused of forgery under PC 484f if he “knowingly” altered or used a credit card to his own benefit. This means that it is always a valid legal defense for an accused to show that he did not act with this type of knowledge. For example, it's possible that he signed someone else's name in a credit card transaction by complete mistake (and without any knowledge of doing so).

2.2. No intent to defraud

Please also recall that a person can only be guilty of forging credit card information if he acted with an intent to defraud. It is always a legal defense, therefore, for a defendant to show that he did not have this requisite intent. For example, if he designed a counterfeit credit card, perhaps he did so as a practical joke, and with no specific intent to commit a crime by defrauding another.

2.3. No probable cause

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says that police must have probable cause before they can detain or arrest a suspect of a crime.

If a person was stopped or arrested for violating PC 484f, and there was no probable cause, then any evidence obtained following the improper stop/arrest could get excluded from the case. This exclusion could result in the dismissal or reduction in charges.

“Probable cause” essentially means that there is a reasonable belief that someone committed a crime (based on all of the circumstances).

prisoner being held by guard
A violation of PC 484f can result in jail time

3. Penalties, punishment, and sentencing

Violations of Penal Code 484f are punished under Penal Code 470 PC, or California's forgery law.4 PC 470 violations are wobbler offenses under California law, meaning they can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

If charged as a misdemeanor, the crime is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year.

If charged as a felony, the offense is punishable by imprisonment in the California state prison for up to three years.

4. Related offenses

There are three laws related to forging credit card information. These are:

  1. fraudulent use of a credit card – PC 484g,
  2. stealing a credit card – PC 484e, and
  3. petty theft – PC 484 and 488.

4.1. Fraudulent use of a credit card – PC 484g

Penal Code 484g PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to fraudulently use another person's credit or debit card.

A person violates Penal Code 484g PC when he knowingly uses a:

  • stolen,
  • altered,
  • counterfeit,
  • forged,
  • expired, or
  • revoked

credit or debit card in order to obtain money, goods, services or anything else of value.5

How PC 484g is punished depends on the value of the items a defendant receives. If the amount of the money, goods, services, etc. exceeds $950 in any consecutive six-month period, the offense will be punished as grand theft, per Penal Code 487. If the value is $950 or less, the offense will be punished as petty theft, per Penal Code 484a and 488.6

4.2. Stealing a credit card – PV 484e

Penal Code 484e PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to steal a credit or debit card, or a party's credit card or debit card information.7

A person that violates PC 484e is guilty of grand theft, under Penal Code 487. Grand theft is a wobbler offense under California law, meaning that it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

In any event, the maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is imprisonment in the county jail for up to three years.8

4.3. Petty theft – PC 484 and 488

In Penal Code 484a and 488, California law defines "petty theft" as the unlawful taking of property that is valued at $950 or less.9

Petty theft is a misdemeanor under California law.10 The crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for up to six months, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.11

Were you accused of forging credit card information in California? Call us for help…

california credit card fraud legal defense
Call us for help at (855) LAW-FIRM

If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime, per California Penal Code 484f, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. We can be reached 24/7 at 855-LawFirm.


Legal References:

  1. California Penal Code 484f PC. This code section states: “(a) Every person who, with the intent to defraud, designs, makes, alters, or embosses a counterfeit access card or utters or otherwise attempts to use a counterfeit access card is guilty of forgery.

    (b) A person other than the cardholder or a person authorized by him or her who, with the intent to defraud, signs the name of another or of a fictitious person to an access card, sales slip, sales draft, or instrument for the payment of money which evidences an access card transaction, is guilty of forgery.”

  2. See same.

  3. See same.

  4. See same.

  5. California Penal Code 484g PC.

  6. See same.

  7. California Penal Code 484e PC.

  8. California Penal Code 489 PC.

  9. California Penal Code 484 PC.

  10. California Penal Code 490 PC.

  11. See same.

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