If you are facing credit card fraud charges in San Diego, you need a defense attorney for the defense. Fraud is a white-collar crime whose consequences can be life-altering. You risk spending time in jail, paying fines, and reimbursing the victims for what they lose through the crime. The San Diego Criminal Attorney helps you fight the charges you are facing by conducting a thorough investigation and preparing a defense strategy.

Credit Card Fraud Overview

Credit card fraud occurs when an individual fraudulently acquires or uses a credit card or its details to deceive another person, so the victim suffers a loss, and the offender gets an undeserved advantage.

California has several credit card laws that describe different forms of credit card fraud. The charges you face will depend on the specific laws you are suspected of violating. The general elements of credit card fraud include:

  • You fraudulently obtain or use another person's credit card or credit card details
  • Unlawful use your card when you know it is expired or revoked
  • Knowingly selling or buying goods using a credit card or credit card details that were acquired unlawfully

The specific credit card fraud laws include:

PC 484e Stealing a Credit Card

Stealing another person's credit card or credit card details is an offense in California. The elements of the crime that the prosecution has to prove include:

  • You acquired, sold, transferred or retains possession of the credit card or credit card details of another person
  • Without the consent of the cardholder
  • With the intent to defraud

Stealing a credit card is charged as grand theft under PC 487. Grand theft is a wobbler.

The penalties for misdemeanor grand theft include a maximum term of one year in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. The penalties for a felony offense of stealing a credit card includes up to three years in county jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

However, the court might charge you with petty theft if you acted with the necessary intent but did not commit fraud. The penalties, in this case, will be a maximum six-month term in county jail and a fine of $1,000.

PC 484f Forging A Credit Card

Forging a credit card in California involves one or more of these three offenses:

  • Altering a credit card or credit card information
  • Creating a fake credit card
  • Signing another person's name on a credit card transaction without the person's consent

The prosecution has to prove that you acted knowingly, unlawfully and with the intent to defraud (by use of dishonest means), to get an undeserved advantage for yourself.

Forging a credit card is punished under California's forgery laws. Forging a credit card is a wobbler. When convicted, you face up to one year in a county jail for a misdemeanor and up to three years for a felony. Both offenses include fines and restitution to the victims.

PC 484g Fraudulent use of A Credit Card

Knowingly and fraudulently using a stolen, altered, counterfeit, expired, or revoked credit card is an offense under PC 484g. The crucial elements of these offenses include the intent to defraud and without the consent of the cardholder.

Fraudulent use of a credit card is charged as petty or grand theft, depending on the amount involved.

If the amount you defrauded is below $950, the prosecution will charge you for petty theft. The penalties will include a sentence not exceeding six months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

If the amount exceeds $950, the offense becomes grand theft. The penalties for grand theft depend on the circumstances and your criminal record.

The prosecution can charge you with a misdemeanor or felony with penalties such as:

  • Up to one year in county jail and a fine not exceeding $1,000 for a misdemeanor
  • Up to three years in county jail and a fine of $10,000 for a felony.

The court sums up the amount in a six-month consecutive period to determine how much the victim has lost from the fraudulent use of a credit card or credit card information.

PC 484h Retailer Credit Card Fraud

Retail outlets are perhaps the common areas where credit card fraud is likely to happen. The law prohibits retailers from engaging in the following forms of credit card fraud:

  • accepting money from a credit card or credit card information that you know is stolen
  • You provide proof of a credit card as payment for a good or service yet you do not furnish money, goods or services of an equal value
  • You intended to defraud through deception

Retailer credit card fraud is charged as either petty theft or grand theft, depending on the amount involved within six consecutive months.

When the amount is below $950, the offense is petty theft and grand theft if the amount exceeds $950.

PC 484i Counterfeiting Credit Cards

PC 484i prohibits the possession of counterfeit credit cards or credit card producing equipment. You violate the law against counterfeiting credit cards when:

  • You possess an incomplete credit card which you intend to complete without the permission from the issuer. Possessing an incomplete credit card with the intention of defrauding someone is a misdemeanor offense punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to six months of county jail term.
  • You alter, modify, change or authorize the modification of some or all of a credit card's details with the intention that the transactions taken using the credit card will be billed on another person. California charges this offense as a forgery. Forgery attracts a county jail term of up to one or up to three years for a misdemeanor and felony, respectively. You will also pay fines that do not exceed $1,000 for a misdemeanor and $10,000 for a felony.
  • You create, possess, traffic, or make available incomplete cards or credit card making equipment intending that the equipment or cards be used to create counterfeit cards. Violating this section makes you guilty of a wobbler offense. The penalties include incarceration for up to six months in county jail and a $1,000 fine for a misdemeanor charge. A felony charge attracts an incarceration term not exceeding three years in county jail and a fine of a maximum of $10,000.

PC 484j Publishing Credit Card Details

Communicating orally, in writing or through electronic means the credit card information:

  • Of another person
  • That is non-existent
  • Expired, canceled, or revoked
  • Or the coding system used in the production of credit cards

With the intention or knowledge that information will facilitate credit card fraud is a misdemeanor offense.

You can be charged with publishing credit card information if you provide a computer password or PIN, which could facilitate the commission of credit card fraud.

The penalties for publishing credit card information include:

  • Six months in county jail
  • Probation
  • Fines

If you commit credit card fraud across states or in a government agency or facility, the federal government could charge you with federal credit card fraud. The offense attracts a state prison sentence based on the facts of your case.

Legal Defenses to Credit Card Fraud

Some of the defenses you credit card fraud attorney can use in your defense include:


If another person forced you to commit a credit card offense, duress could be a sufficient defense to have your charges dismissed. Duress allows you to prove lack of intent in committing the offense.

The defense has to prove that the defendant experienced an imminent danger to his or her life or that of another person.

In addition, the defense must also prove that the defendant received the instruction to commit the offense while under duress.

Some of the elements that must be present to prove duress include:

  • You or another person faced imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury
  • The person threatening you placed a condition on you committing the offense to save your life or that of another person
  • You reasonably believed that you or a third party was in danger

The defense can use duress to create reasonable doubt in the jury and place the burden of proof on the prosecution to prove that the defendant did not act due to duress.

In most cases, proving complete duress is enough to have the prosecution dismiss your case. However, if the defense does not fully satisfy the elements of duress, your defense attorney can use imperfect defense to convince the prosecution to reduce the charges.


Necessity is closely related to duress and can be used in fighting charges of credit card fraud. You can use necessity as a defense if:

  • You committed the offense due to an emergency to prevent substantial bodily harm to yourself or another person
  • You did not have a legal alternative
  • You did not create a greater danger than the one the situation posed
  • You had a reasonable belief that your actions were necessary to save the situation
  • You did not create or contribute to the creation of the emergency

When successful, the necessity defense helps you prove the lack of criminal intent required when committing credit card fraud offenses.

Proving necessity is usually complicated and requires the expertise of an attorney. First, by using this defense, you are admitting guilt to committing the offense. However, you have to explain your actions.

Necessity as a defense has a higher burden of proof standard. Usually, you have to convince the jury that they believe the act was necessary and a "lesser evil" compared to the alternative.

Lack of intent

Intent is one of the major elements of credit card fraud that the prosecution has to prove. The prosecution will use your actions to prove that you intended to commit credit card fraud.

However, it does not factor in distractions, mistakes, and accidents. Daily life struggles and stress can lead to negligence and mistakes that can lead to criminal liability might occur.

For example, if you accidentally pick your roommate's credit card from a shared desk without checking the details, then proceed to shop using her card, the law can interpret the act as intentional and fraudulent.

However, you made a mistake by carrying your roommate's card, which is similar to yours. Your criminal defense attorney should be in a position to prove that you did not desire to gain an undeserved advantage by fraudulently using a credit card.

False accusations

You could be falsely accused of committing credit card fraud offense due to anger, jealousy, or malice. Sometimes, the false accusations could arise due to mistaken identity. Whenever you are facing charges for a crime you did not commit, hiring a lawyer is necessary. Your attorney will help you fight this offense by examining the evidence from the prosecution to identify inconsistencies.

Insufficient evidence

For the court to find you guilty of credit card fraud, the prosecution must prove that you committed the offense and fulfill all the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. For instance, if the prosecution cannot prove that you knew your card was expired or revoked, you cannot be guilty of the offense.

Insufficient evidence can arise due to erroneous reports that arise due to false accusations and misrepresentation or bias by officers.


If your charges arise due to an arrest from a sting operation, you could use entrapment as a defense to your charges. Entrapment arises when a law enforcement official compels you to commit a credit card offense that you could not have committed.

Law enforcement officials are required to uphold certain standards when investigating an offense. They are supposed to be professional and not provide incentives or encouragement to commit a crime. However, in their zeal to arrest someone for an offense, some officers end up encouraging someone to commit the offense.

Credit card fraud is an offense whose conviction or arrest has the potential of ruining your reputation in addition to criminal and civil penalties. Therefore, you need to hire a lawyer who has experience in dealing with similar offenses to help you attain the best possible outcome in your case.

The best outcome varies depending on the case: it could be reduced sentencing, dismissed charges, acquittal, or alternative sentencing such as probation.

Your lawyer will engage with the prosecution even before the government files charges against you. The time after an arrest is the ideal time to hire a defense attorney. By taking such an action, you are being proactive and allowing the attorney a better chance of defending you.

Only minor cases of credit card fraud may be excused before filing charges, and even those are rare. Therefore, you should be prepared to handle the charges.

Negotiations between the prosecution and the defense are important in achieving a favorable outcome and in reducing the number of convicts incarcerated. The plea you take during the arraignment can give your lawyer time to evaluate the evidence against you.

In most cases, the prosecution makes an offer during the arraignment for you to take a guilty plea, citing this as the best offer for which you can hope. However, a "not guilty" plea is wiser even if you feel the evidence would be overwhelmingly against you.

Immediately after the arraignment, the prosecution grants the defense evidence that it has against you. Your lawyer has the opportunity to examine this evidence and find the best angles to defend you.

Finding a lawyer is one of the first steps you need to take after your arrest. Factors you can use when finding the best lawyer for you include:

The experience the lawyer has in handling credit card fraud offenses. The experience includes a number of years he or she has worked, the resources the attorney has at his or her disposal, the previous success in settling similar cases before and after trial.

Customer testimonials and reviews, which reveal the experience other people have had in dealing with the attorney.

Ask for recommendations from friends and relatives: your friends or relatives might be aware of a good credit card fraud defense attorney who could be the right fit for you.

Check that the attorney is licensed to operate within California: ensure that you choose a lawyer who has the right certification and licensing.

Affordability: private lawyers might be expensive. Therefore, choose one whom you can afford and offers quality services. If you cannot afford a private lawyer, the court will appoint a public defender for you.

If you do not feel confident about the lawyer representing you, you can change him or her at any time during the criminal proceedings. Note that the lawyer also has the discretion to drop your case. For example, if you refuse to cooperate (for example, by rejecting plea offers when the evidence against you is overwhelming, and the chances of losing at trial are very high), or you intend to use false testimony in court, the lawyer might drop your case.

Related offenses

The prosecution can charge you with credit card fraud, additional, or alternative offenses related to credit card fraud. These charges arise out of the circumstances surrounding the specific offense you have committed. The most common offenses include:

Identity theft PC 530.5

Identity theft is the willful and unlawful use of the personal information of someone else to commit fraud. The offense arises when you acquire the personal information of that person without his or her consent or fraudulently through deception.

Some of the identifying information includes the social security number, passport information, credit card information, bank details, names, and addresses, date of birth, and contact information. Identity theft is a federal offense punishable by up to 25 years in state prison and fines.

In California, identity theft is a wobbler offense based on your criminal history and the present offense. The penalties for a misdemeanor charge include a maximum jail term of one year and a fine of $1,000. For a felony, the sentence includes a minimum of 16 months and a maximum of three years in county jail and a $10,000 fine.

Internet Fraud

Committing credit card fraud offenses through the internet is a federal offense. Most ûinternet credit card fraud offenses are done through fraudulently obtaining personal or credit card information of another person through pretenses.

When the person gives up this information, you can use it to gain an undeserved advantage. You can also be charged with internet fraud if:

  • You sell the credit card information or identifying information of another person knowing that the recipient will use the information fraudulently
  • Providing another person with the identifying information of another without the consent of the owner and with the intent to defraud
  • Retaining the identifying information of another person's identifying information without his or her consent to use for fraud

If you are found guilty of internet credit card fraud, you face a potential sentence of at least 20 years in state prison.

Conspiracy PC 182

Collaborating with another person(s) to commit credit card fraud can result in charges for conspiracy and credit card fraud.

Conspiracy involves an agreement with at least one person to commit an offense, and one of the parties commits an act that furthers the agreement.

Conspiracy to commit fraud is a wobbler offense in California. A misdemeanor offense includes up to a year in county jail and a fine of up to $10,000. When convicted of a felony offense, the penalties include up to three years in county jail.

Find a San Diego Credit Card Fraud Attorney Near Me

You can be charged with one or more forms of credit card fraud offenses in California. You could also be charged with federal credit card fraud depending on the defrauded party and the circumstances of the offense. The consequences of credit card fraud are far-reaching and affect you even after the criminal penalties are over. For example, if you are looking for a job at a retail shop and your conviction for credit card fraud shows up, the employer will probably not employ you. Fighting these charges can redeem you from the long-term consequences of a conviction. Also, your attorney can help you with expunging your criminal records to protect you from most of the negative consequences of a conviction. The San Diego Criminal Attorney provides defendants facing charges of credit card fraud with defense preparation and presentation services. We apply our resources, expertise, and networks to ensure that you get the most favorable result in your case. If you or a loved one needs representation in fighting credit card charges in California, contact us at 619-880-5474.

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