Sentencing in California identity theft cases

Identity theft is a crime that has the potential to not only rob an individual of hard-earned financial resources or credit rating, but to adversely impact a person’s reputation. This is one of the reasons states like California prosecute the illegal obtaining, intention or actual use of another’s personal information so aggressively.

In order to prosecute a defendant for identity theft, the onus falls on the prosecution to prove that the defendant intentionally obtained another party’s personal information without one’s advance knowledge. Even if the defendant did not personally use the information he or she illicitly obtained, in California, the individual can still be held criminally liable for having either transferred or sold that information to another.

Under the state’s Penal Code Section 530.5-530.55, sentences handed down for identity theft crimes depend greatly as to how the information was obtained and retained as well as whether it was transferred, sold or used personally by the defendant for some type of unlawful purpose. How the crime occurred and how badly the victim was harmed will also impact sentencing.

When it comes to sentencing in identity theft cases, a defendant can reliably expect one of several types of punishments. These include: imprisonment for up to a year in a local county jail, a fine or combination thereof. If a defendant has a lengthy criminal history or the nature of the crime was aggravated, then a defendant may qualify for enhanced sentences above and beyond the aforementioned.

There are many strategies a defendant may look to have one’s attorney employ at trail in an identity theft case. A defendant may choose to assert that the owner of the personal data gave one permission to possess it. Or, he or she might argue that the information one did obtain wasn’t used in an unlawful way. There are a number of other defenses that can be employed as well.

In discussing the details of your case with an Orange County criminal defense attorney, he or she will advise you of not only the potential penalties you’re facing, but also of strategies to defend you against the pending charges.

Source:, “California identity theft laws,” accessed May 19, 2017

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