Nowadays, Americans barely carry around cash anymore. Credit cards have become a more favorable option for paying for groceries, gas, and making other transactions.
With the ever-increase popularity of credit cards, credit card fraud has been on the rise, too. Texas courts take credit card fraud charges very seriously. The penalties associated with credit card fraud convictions are harsher than many people think.
Many Texans do not realize what actions could result in credit card fraud charges, which is why some defendants face charges for doing something they did not think was illegal.
If you have been charged with credit card fraud, do not hesitate to discuss your case with a Georgetown criminal defense lawyer. Your freedom could be at stake if you are facing criminal charges for credit card fraud. A skilled lawyer will help you understand your options and protect your freedom.
What Actions Result in Credit Card Fraud Charges?
In Texas, you can face credit card fraud charges for doing any of the following:
Using a fake or counterfeit credit/debit card
Paying for items or services with a stolen credit/debit card
Opening a new account with a stolen credit/debit card
Opening a credit card in someone else’s name
Using a credit card to assume someone else’s identity
Using another person’s lost credit/debit card
Knowingly using a revoked or expired credit card
Making or using credit card skimmer and other malicious card readers
These and many other activities involving credit and debit cards could land you in jail. If you have been charged with credit card fraud, it is important to consult with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
Are Credit Card Fraud Cases Prosecuted in State or Federal Courts?
It depends. Credit card fraud charges can be prosecuted at both the state and federal levels. In fact, a large percentage of criminal cases involving credit card fraud are prosecuted in federal courts for several reasons:
Federal cybercrime task forces have more resources to prosecute fraud involving credit cards and track down people suspected of fraud; and
Many people who commit credit card fraud make purchases across state lines.
You need an experienced criminal defense attorney regardless of whether your case is being prosecuted in a state or federal court.
What Are the Penalties for Credit Card Fraud?
The criminal penalties for credit card fraud depend on many factors, including:
The circumstances of the case;
The amount of money stolen or used through fraud;
The defendant’s prior convictions; and
The victim’s age.
Under Texas Penal Code § 32.31, credit card fraud is classified as a state jail felony offense, which carries the following penalties:
A maximum jail sentence of 2 years; and
Up to $10,000 in fines.
If the defendant commits credit card fraud against an elderly person, they may face a third-degree felony, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
If credit card fraud is prosecuted by the federal government, the defendant could face up to 15 years in prison. If the defendant has prior convictions on their record, the prison sentence could be increased to up to 20 years.
Defenses to Credit Card Fraud Charges in Texas
There are several defenses to choose from to avoid a conviction for credit card fraud. The best defense strategy depends on the circumstances of your case, which is why it is highly advised to speak with an attorney to explore your options.
Some of the most common defenses to credit card fraud charges in Texas include:
Mistaken identity. It is not rare for law enforcement to catch the wrong person in connection with credit card fraud. Because many activities that constitute credit card fraud occur over the Internet, law enforcement may arrest the wrong person after conducting its investigation.
Lack of intent. In Texas, prosecutors must prove that the defendant had the intent to commit a crime to convict him/her of the crime. Thus, if you committed credit card fraud without the intent to do so, you may not be convicted. For example, if you thought that you were using your credit card when it was actually not yours, you may not be convicted of credit card fraud because you did not intend to commit a crime.
Lack of evidence. Prosecutors in Texas must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person is guilty of a crime to convict them. If the prosecutor cannot demonstrate sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed credit card fraud, you cannot be convicted. In this case, it is critical to be represented by a skilled attorney to be able to prove that the prosecutor does not have enough evidence for a conviction.
Consent. If you had the alleged victim’s consent to use their credit card (or thought you had their consent), you could use it as your defense to avoid a conviction. Proving that you had permission to use someone else’s credit card can be difficult, but a knowledgeable lawyer will be able to help you.
Entrapment. If you can prove that you were a victim of entrapment (you were encouraged to commit fraud you would not have committed), you may avoid a conviction.
Duress or threat of violence. If you were coerced into committing credit card fraud under duress or threat of violence, you cannot be found guilty of the crime.
Contact an experienced attorney to review your particular case and choose the most appropriate defense strategy.
Talk to a Georgetown Criminal Defense Lawyer
Contact a skilled criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible if you are facing credit card fraud charges. Your freedom and future could be at stake if the judge finds you guilty of the crime.
At The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard, our attorneys are committed to fighting for your best interests to help you choose the best defense strategy in your particular case and get the charges dismissed or reduced. Call 254-501-4040 for a free case review.