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What are the Penalties for Identity Theft in California?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Aug 17, 2015 | 0 Comments

Identity theft occurs when someone acquires and uses another person's private identifying information. Both California as well as federal law imposes punishments for identity theft. It is possible for individuals to be prosecuted for the same act of identity theft under both state and federal law.

Both California Penal Code 530 and California Penal Code 473 prosecute different types of identity theft. A prosecutor may file charges under these laws either as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the facts of the case and the defendant's criminal history.

The state of California criminalizes identity theft such as:

  • stealing another's credit card information to make purchases,
  • using the email account of another to falsely impersonate that person,
  • applying for a mortgage or other loan using someone else's name and identifying information,
  • using someone else's name and social security number to collect welfare or unemployment,
  • using someone else's name and birth date in connection with a criminal offense.

The penalties for a CPC 530 misdemeanor identity theft conviction are:

  • Maximum fine of up to $1,000
  • Up to one year in a county jail

The penalties for a CPC 530.5 felony identity theft conviction are:

  • Maximum fine of up to $1,000
  • Up to three years in county jail

California Penal Code 473 punishes signature forgery as a misdemeanor, unless the forged item exceeds $950.

The penalties for a CPC 473 misdemeanor identity theft conviction include:  

  • Maximum fine of up to $1,000
  • Up to one year in a county jail

The penalties for CPC 473 felony identity theft conviction include:

  • Maximum fine of up to $10,000
  • Community service
  • Up to 3 years in a county jail

The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998 is a federal law codified under Title 18 U.S.C. 1028. More comprehensive than California's identity theft law, the federal identity theft law also includes prohibitions against:

  • presenting someone else's I.D.,
  • transferring a stolen identification document, and
  • producing, transferring, possessing or trafficking any equipment with the intent to produce false identification documents.

Depending upon the facts of the case, individuals prosecuted under the federal identity theft law face more substantial fines and up to 30 years in federal prison.

An identity theft conviction can result in substantial punishments regardless of whether prosecuted under California or federal laws. If you have been charged with identity theft in Los Angeles County, contact us to defend your rights. Read our article about the Relationship Between Identity Theft and Using Another Person's ID Card in California Law.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.

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