California Penal Code 484g PC - Fraudulent Use of a Credit Card

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.

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

Fraud” occurs when a person tries to gain an undeserved benefit through deceit.

Examples of illegal acts under this statute include:

  • Tim steals a credit card and tries to purchase some clothes with it.
  • Roberto takes his girlfriend's expired debit card and buys camera equipment with it.
  • April takes the credit card information from her roommate and uses it to make online purchases from Amazon.

Defenses

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

  • did not intend to defraud,
  • acted with the consent of the cardholder, and/or
  • was under duress.

Penalties

A person that violates this code section is guilty of petty theft, under Penal Code 484. If a defendant fraudulently uses a credit card, and as a result receives items that exceed $950, the accused is charged with grand theft, under Penal Code 487.

While petty theft is charged as a misdemeanor, grand theft is a wobbler offense, which means it can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor.

Both offenses are punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail, and/or
  • a substantial fine.

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

credit card lock
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.

1. What is the legal definition of fraudulently using a credit card under Penal Code 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.

The code section says that a person commits a crime when he knowingly uses a:

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

credit or debit card (or credit or debit card information) to obtain money, goods, services or anything else of value.1

Please note a PC 484g violation will only occur if the defendant acts:

  • with the intent to defraud, and
  • without the cardholder's consent.2

To “defraud” or to do something “fraudulently” means to try and gain an undeserved benefit by using trickery or deceit.

2. Legal Defenses

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

Three common defenses to Penal Code 484g charges include:

  1. no intent to defraud,
  2. consent of the cardholder, and/or
  3. duress.

2.1. No intent to defraud

Please recall that a person can only be guilty of fraudulently using a credit or debit card if he does so with an intent to defraud. This means that it is always a legal defense for a defendant to show that he did not have this requisite intent.

2.2. Consent of the cardholder

Please also recall that a defendant is only guilty of violating PC 484g if he acts without the cardholder's consent. Therefore, a solid legal defense is for an accused to show that a credit card owner agreed to his suspicious actions or purchases.

2.3. Duress

Duress is a legal defense in which an accused basically says: “He made me do it.” The defense applies to the very limited situation in which a person commits a crime (here, fraudulently using a credit card), because somebody threatened to kill him if the crime was not committed.

suited man cuffed
A violation of this law can result in a fine and/or jail time

3. Penalties, punishment, and sentencing

A person that violates this code section is guilty of petty theft, under Penal Code 484.3 If a defendant fraudulently uses a credit card, and as a result receives items that exceed $950, the accused is charged with grand theft, under Penal Code 487.4

Petty theft is a misdemeanor under California law.5 The crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for up to six months, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.6

Grand theft is a wobbler offense under California law, meaning that it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

If charged as a misdemeanor, the crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.7

If charged as a felony, the offense is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for up to three years, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $10,000.8

4. Related offenses

There are three laws related to PC 484g, fraudulent use of a credit card. These are:

  1. stealing a credit card – PC 484e,
  2. publishing credit card information – PC 484j, and
  3. shoplifting – PC 459.5.

4.1. Stealing a credit card – PC 484e

A person violates Penal Code 484e PC when he sells, transfers or acquires a credit or debit card, or the credit or debit card account information, without the true cardholder's consent.9

A person that violates PC 484e is guilty of grand theft, under Penal Code 487.10 Grand theft is a wobbler offense under California law, meaning that it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

Either charge is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail, and/or
  • a substantial fine.11

4.2. Publishing credit card information – PC 484j

Penal Code 484j prohibits publishing any information about a credit or debit card, personal identification number, computer password, bank account information, etc. with the intent to defraud another person or entity.

PC 484j is charged as a misdemeanor and the offense is punishable by:

  • up to six-months in jail, and/or,
  • a maximum $1,000 fine.12

4.3 Shoplifting – PC 459.5

Shoplifting is a crime in California per Penal Code 459.5.

PC 459.5 defines "shoplifting" as:

  • entering an open business,
  • with the intent to steal merchandise worth $950 or less.13

A violation of this code section is typically charged as a misdemeanor. The crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for up to six months, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.14

Were you accused of fraudulently using a credit card in California? Call us for help…

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

If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime, per Penal Code 484g, 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 484g PC.

  2. See same.

  3. See same.

  4. See same.

  5. California Penal Code 490 PC.

  6. See same.

  7. California Penal Code 489 PC.

  8. See same.

  9. California Penal Code 484e PC.

  10. See same.

  11. California Penal Code 489 PC.

  12. California Penal Code 484j PC.

  13. California Penal Code 459.5 PC.

  14. See same.

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