Overview of California Identity Theft Laws

What is Considered California Identity Theft?

Identity theft is an offense that is defined as using another person’s identity information without consent for fraudulent purposes. California law considers identity theft as a severe offense that can lead to hefty fines or lengthy prison sentences.

There are four different types of identity theft which include;

  • Obtaining and using another person’s information without their consent for unlawful purposes
  • Obtaining and using another person’s information without their consent to commit fraud
  • Selling, transferring or conveying another person’s information without their consent with an intent of committing fraud
  • Selling, transferring or conveying another person’s information without their consent knowing that the information could be used to commit fraud.

Having another person’s information could not possibly lead to identity theft. California Penal Code Section 530.5 states that a prosecutor must prove that the defendant used another person’s information, either in an unlawful manner or with the intent of fraud. Another person’s information may include the name of the person, date of birth, address, driver’s license or passport information, employee or school identification, credit or bank information, among others.

Unlawfully using the information may include using it for acquiring property, money, medical information, or goods or services. California law defines fraud as an action that can lead to unfair benefit for the defendant, or harm another person or cause them loss.

California identity theft can either be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the criminal history of the defendant and the specific case facts. A person convicted of misdemeanor identity theft under California law could face up to one year in county jail, up to $1,000 fine, or both. A person convicted of felony identity theft could face up to three years in California state prison, up to $10,000, or both.

It is good to note that every time a defendant uses another person’s information, it is considered a separate and distinct violation of the identity theft statute. Therefore, a defendant could be charged with and punished for multiple accounts of identity theft, even where there is only one named victim.

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