Penal Code 484i PC - Counterfeiting Credit Cards

Penal Code 484i PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to:

  • counterfeit credit cards, and
  • make, possess, and/or traffic credit card making machinery.

In particular, the statute states:

“(a) Every person who possesses an incomplete access card, with intent to complete it without the consent of the issuer, is guilty of a misdemeanor.

(b) Every person who, with the intent to defraud, makes, alters, varies, changes, or modifies access card account information on any part of an access card…or who authorizes or consents to alteration, variance, change, or modification of access card account information by another, in a manner that causes transactions initiated by that access card to be charged or billed to a person other than the cardholder to whom the access card was issued, is guilty of forgery.

(c) Every person who designs, makes, possesses, or traffics in card making equipment or incomplete access cards with the intent that the equipment or cards be used to make counterfeit access cards, is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, or by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 .”

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

Examples of illegal acts under this statute are:

  • Deborah changes the account number on her credit card, so it is the same as her neighbor's.
  • Pedro agrees with a friend and allows him to modify the expiration date on his own debit card.
  • Juanita stores credit card making equipment in her apartment.

Defenses

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

Penalties

A violation of Penal Code 484i can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a wobbler, depending on the facts of the case. Please note that a wobbler offense can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

While a misdemeanor PC 484i charge is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for up to six months or one year, a felony charge is punishable by a maximum three-year county jail sentence.

In addition, violations of Penal Code 484ib are charged and punished as forgery, per California Penal Code 470.

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

credit card robber illustration
Penal Code 484i PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to counterfeit credit cards.

1. What is the legal definition of counterfeiting credit cards under Penal Code 484i?

Penal Code 484i PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to counterfeit credit cards.

A person violates this statute if he:

  1. possess an incomplete credit card with the intent to complete it without the consent of the issuer (an "incomplete" card is one that, for example, is missing the bank logo),
  2. alters, changes or modifies any part of the credit card, regardless of whether the change is to the face of the card or to the information contained in the card (altering the content in the magnetic stripe, for example) with the intent to defraud,
  3. allows another person to alter or modify the card or its account information, or
  4. makes, possesses, or "traffics" (that is, sell or exchange) credit card making equipment or incomplete credit cards with the intent that the equipment or cards be used to make counterfeit access cards.1

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

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

Three common defenses to PC 484i charges include:

  1. no criminal intent,
  2. necessity, and/or
  3. falsely accused.

2.1. No criminal intent

Please recall that Penal Code 484i PC states that an accused must act with a certain intent to be guilty under each of its sections. For example, the defendant must act with an “intent to defraud” to be convicted under PC 484ib. This means it is a valid legal defense for an accused to show that he did not act with this requisite intent.

2.2. Necessity

Under a necessity defense, a defendant essentially tries to avoid guilt by showing that he had a sufficiently good reason to commit the crime. In the context of counterfeiting a credit card, an accused could attempt to show that he committed the crime since he had no other choice (e.g., because of an emergency).

2.3. Falsely accused

Unfortunately, it is not at all uncommon for people to get prosecuted based on false allegations. People get falsely accused out of

  • jealousy,
  • revenge, and
  • anger.

Thus, it is a valid defense for a defendant to say that a party falsely accused him of violating Penal Code 484i.

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

3. Penalties, punishment, and sentencing

The penalties for Penal Code 484i violations will vary depending on what code section gets violated.

If a defendant violates Penal Code 484ia, he will be charged with a misdemeanor.2 This violation is punishable by:

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

If a defendant violates Penal Code 484ib, the crime becomes one of forgery and is punished as a wobbler offense in accordance with Penal Code 470 PC.3

If an accused violates Penal Code 484ic, then the crime is a wobbler offense.4 This means the accused can be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony.

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

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

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

  • a maximum $10,000 fine, and/or
  • 16 months or two or three years in county jail.

4. Related offenses

There are three laws related to counterfeiting credit cards. These are:

  1. credit card fraud by a retailer – PC 484h,
  2. stealing a credit card – PC 484e, and
  3. forging credit card information – PC 484f.

4.1. Credit card fraud by a retailer – PC 484h

Penal Code 484h PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a retailer to commit credit card fraud.5

The manner in which PC 484h violations get charged depends on the value of the property a retailer receives.

If a retailer commits credit card fraud, and it receives more than $950 in a consecutive six-month period, then the retailer will be charged with grand theft, per Penal Code 487.

If a retailer violates PC 484h, and it receives less than $950 in a consecutive six-month period, then the retailer will be charged with petty theft, per Penal Code 484 and 488.

4.2. Stealing a credit card – PC 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.6

A person that violates PC 484e is guilty of grand theft, under Penal Code 487. The maximum penalty for a violation of this statute is imprisonment in the county jail for up to three years.7

4.3. Forging credit card information – PC 484f

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

Violations of Penal Code 484f are punished under Penal Code 470 PC, or California's forgery law.8 This offense can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony and can lead to imprisonment for up to three years.

Were you accused of counterfeiting credit cards in California? Call us for help…

credit card counterfeit 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 484i, 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 484i PC. This code section states: “(a)Every person who possesses an incomplete access card, with intent to complete it without the consent of the issuer, is guilty of a misdemeanor.

    (b) Every person who, with the intent to defraud, makes, alters, varies, changes, or modifies access card account information on any part of an access card, including information encoded in a magnetic stripe or other medium on the access card not directly readable by the human eye, or who authorizes or consents to alteration, variance, change, or modification of access card account information by another, in a manner that causes transactions initiated by that access card to be charged or billed to a person other than the cardholder to whom the access card was issued, is guilty of forgery.

    (c) Every person who designs, makes, possesses, or traffics in card making equipment or incomplete access cards with the intent that the equipment or cards be used to make counterfeit access cards, is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, or by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 .”

  2. California Penal Code 484ia PC.

  3. California Penal Code 484ib PC.

  4. California Penal Code 484ic PC.

  5. California Penal Code 484h PC.

  6. California Penal Code 484e PC.

  7. California Penal Code 489 PC.

  8. See same.

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