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Is it Illegal to Steal a Credit or Debit Card for Personal Use

As per California State Law, stealing someone’s credit or debit card or credit or debit card information is illegal. Penal Code 484e is the statute that makes it a crime, and in particular, it outlines that it’s considered a criminal offense if a person: 

  • Transfers, sells, or acquires a credit or debit card without the cardholder's consent
  • Attempts or has the intent to defraud them

Along with that, Penal Code 484e also states it’s a crime if a party: 

  • Keeps someone’s credit or debit card or credit or debit card information without their consent
  • Or keeps their credit or debit card with the intention of doing something fraudulent

There are three other laws related to Penal Code 484e involving stealing a credit card. They are: 

  • Penal Code 484g - Fraudulent use of a credit card. A person has violated this section of the code if they knowingly used a stolen, altered, counterfeit, forged, expired, or revoked credit card to pay for any goods or services or to obtain money.
  • Penal Code 484j - Publishing credit card information online. A person has violated this section of the law if they publicly published any credit or debit card information, personal identification number, bank account information, etc., while intending to defraud another person or entity.
  • Penal Code 484 and 488 - Petty theft. As per California Law, anyone that commits the crime of “petty theft” is defined as an unlawful taking of a property that has a value of $950 or less. 
What is the sentencing for violating Penal Code 484e? 

Anyone who violates Penal Code 484e is guilty of grand theft under Penal Code 487. According to California law, grand theft is a wobbler offense, which essentially means that it can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the details of each separate case. 

If the crime gets charged as a misdemeanor, it’s punishable by: 

  • Imprisonment in a state county jail for up to a year
  • A fine of up to $1000

If the crime gets classified as a felony, the punishment is more severe, and it can include: 

  • Up to three years of imprisonment in the county jail
  • A fine of up to $10,000

Regardless of the classification of the offense, it is important that you seek the assistance of competent legal counsel to help you best understand your legal defense while identifying an outcome that best minimizes your risk. We here at the H Law group patiently await your call.

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