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Fraud occurs when someone uses trickery or deceit for their financial gain, typically to the detriment of someone else. Fraudulent activity happens in many ways.

For example, a person seeking unnecessary disability benefits is committing fraud.

Alternatively, someone who forges a required signature may also face allegations of fraud. A common form of fraud in California is credit card fraud.

If you face charges for credit card fraud, jail or prison time may be the first thing on your mind.

If you have questions about fraud allegations or the potential penalties, contact the experienced San Diego, California, fraud lawyers at The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, today.

Credit Card Fraud Charges in California

California Penal Code section 484 prohibits the use of fraud or deceit to obtain possession of money, labor, or personal property. The statute also applies to credit card fraud. It prohibits: 

  • The sale or possession of credit card information without the owner’s consent; 
  • Signing another person’s name on a credit card transaction without their permission; 
  • Knowingly using a fake, stolen, or expired credit card to procure cash or goods; and 
  • Knowingly communicating credit card information with the intent to defraud a person or a business.

Additionally, Penal Code section 484(h) prohibits a retailer from knowingly accepting payment via a stolen, revoked, or fake credit card or presenting false evidence of a transaction to receive compensation for goods when the transaction did not occur.

Credit Card Fraud: Jail/Prison Time and Other Punishment

In some cases, credit card fraud is essentially just a form of theft. California separates theft into two categories: grand theft and petty theft. Grand theft occurs if the money, labor, or property stolen was valued at $950 or more, subject to minor exceptions.

California considers a grand theft charge a “wobbler,” meaning it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. A serious grand theft charge can result in up to three years in prison.

Petty theft occurs if the money, labor, or property stolen was valued at less than $950. California considers petty theft a misdemeanor.

A misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail. As you can see, credit card fraud punishment can significantly impact your life.

If you are facing a criminal charge for fraudulent activity, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you willfully misrepresented the facts and intentionally deceived the alleged victim.

If you made an honest mistake misusing a credit card, your lack of culpability can act as a legal defense and help you avoid charges.

Contact a criminal defense attorney to discuss your risks of credit card fraud jail time and determine if any legal defenses apply.

If You Still Have Questions About Credit Card Fraud Jail/Prison Time, Contact Our Fraud Attorneys Today

When your freedom is at stake, you need a fraud attorney with a thorough understanding of credit card fraud. We are confident that we can defend your rights aggressively and effectively.

Our team of criminal defense lawyers at The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC can review your case and help prepare a strategy to secure a favorable outcome. Contact our office today to schedule your free consultation.

Author Photo

Kerry L. Armstrong


Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.

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