Every person has identifying information that allows them to conduct financial transactions, access medical documents, and partake in certain services. Each identifying information is unique to the individual and, as such, must be protected from theft. In California, it is illegal to commit identity theft under California Penal Code 530.5 PC. A general definition of identity theft is the fraudulent use of another person’s information without the person’s consent.
Given that identity theft can occur in a variety of ways, the penal code has categorized the crime into four groups. The first concerns the willful use of another person’s identity for an illegal purpose without consent. The second deals with the fraudulent acquisition of another person’s identifying information. The third group is for the sale or transfer of the person’s identifying information with the intention to commit fraud. The fourth group regards the sale or transfer of the identifying information with the knowledge of its subsequent fraudulent use. Examples of identity theft can include using someone else’s credit card information to make fraudulent purchases. Furthermore, the crime of identity theft can apply even if the information is used to commit crimes that are not financial.
This article applies to punishments for violating California law. If the crime falls under federal laws, other punishments can apply. Identity theft is considered a wobbler as it can be a misdemeanor or a felony. For those convicted with a misdemeanor crime, the punishment includes spending one year in a county jail and paying fines/restitution. Those facing felonies will see longer jail time (three years) and paying higher fines/restitution.