Figures published by the Federal Trade Commission show that Florida was second only to one state, Delaware, in the number of credit card fraud cases in 2020. Every other state in the nation had fewer fraudulent credit card reports than Florida.
Our state’s criminal law penalizes the fraudulent use of credit cards and other cards used to transfer funds. At Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law, we believe that everyone should know exactly what the law provides, what constitutes fraudulent use of a credit card, and what the potential penalties are.
If you need more information or you want an experienced criminal defense attorney to defend you from fraud charges, contact our office for immediate help.
What is Credit Card Fraud?
Under Florida Statute § 817.61, a person is guilty of credit card fraud when the following is true:
- the person acts with “intent to defraud” either
-the issuer of the card (the bank or financial services company), or
-the party providing money, goods, services, or anything of value,
- and uses a credit card, without the consent of the cardholder, or
by representing they are the holder of the card when they are not
- to obtain money goods, services, or anything of value.
It does not matter if the attempt to obtain money, goods, services, or anything else of value is successful. Even a failed attempt to use a credit card in a fraudulent manner can constitute a crime.
What’s the Difference Between Credit Card Fraud and Identity Theft?
Using another person’s credit card without their knowledge or consent is a form of identity theft. Claiming to be the card holder when you are not is also identity theft.
Why is this important? Because identity theft is a felony in Florida, regardless of the value of the attempted transaction. F.S. § 817.568 makes actually using someone else’s “personal identification information” without their consent a second-degree felony carrying up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Not every fraudulent credit card prosecution will include a formal count charging identity theft. Still, the possibility exists that an aggressive prosecutor would try to increase the stakes by including a criminal count with a higher prison sentence in order to pressure the defendant into pleading to the credit card fraud charge.
ATM Cards and Account Access Cards Are Covered Under the Credit Card Fraud Statute
The law applies to the fraudulent use of any card that provides access to someone else’s money or identity information. The penalty is not limited only to credit card fraud. Criminal fraud charges can result from the fraudulent use of someone’s ATM cards, debit cards, and any card you can access and use or withdraw their funds or use their credit to obtain anything of value.
Penalties for Credit Card Fraud in Florida
The credit card fraud law in Florida treats multiple fraudulent uses of a credit card within a six-month period as a single crime. If the defendant is accused of using a credit card fraudulently only once or twice during a six-month period or only alleging transactions involving less than $100, then the statutory punishment will be for a first-degree misdemeanor carrying up to 1 year in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.
If the case involves allegations of more than two instances of fraudulent use of the credit card within a six-month period or alleges transactions involving more than $100, then the charge becomes a third-degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in state prison and a $5,000 fine.
Defenses to Florida Credit Card Fraud Charges
Credit card fraud doesn’t happen accidentally. If the person accused of fraud did not intend to defraud anyone, then there is no crime.
To convict anyone of credit card fraud, or any fraud for that matter, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant had the specific intent to defraud someone out of something valuable when they used the card.
Experienced criminal defense lawyers begin by analyzing each case to find what is missing from the list of things the prosecutor needs to get a conviction.
- Is there evidence that the accused intended to use a credit card fraudulently?
- Did the card owner lend it to the accused for previous transactions? (Family members often get accused of misusing a sibling’s or a parent’s credit card when they thought they had permission.)
- Was the accused actually authorized to use the card?
- Did the card owner authorize the defendant’s use of the card and then renege on their authorization once they saw the high balance?
- Is the card owner trying to escape paying for a bill by using the law that relieves them of liability if they allege that someone used the card without authorization?
- Is the defendant the person who used the card fraudulently? (Identity of the guilty party must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.)
- Was the prosecution’s evidence obtained legally? Were any of the defendant’s constitutional rights violated in collecting the evidence?
-Was a search warrant required and not obtained?
-Is the search warrant supported by an affidavit laying out probable cause and the specific location to be searched?
-Did the defendant make a statement? Did the police notify the accused of his Miranda rights before conducting a custodial Q & A? Did the defendant understand those rights?
-Did the defendant invoke their right to an attorney? Determining whether the accused person ever had the authority to use it or had limited authority, or had uncertain authority to use the card can be the critical difference between the dismissal of the charges and a conviction.
The law in Florida and the overlapping federal criminal statutes can be complicated and only an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Florida should be relied upon for the advice and legal representation you will need if you are facing criminal credit card fraud charges.
Learn More> Defending Against Fraud Charges in Florida
Defending Fraud Charges
In Tampa, St. Petersburg, and throughout the area, Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law have been defending people against criminal charges accusing them of credit card fraud, identity fraud, and all manner of larceny and theft. Our criminal defense lawyers are devoted to protecting the rights of every Floridian from overreaching prosecutors, over-zealous law enforcement, and wrongful convictions.
If you need experienced criminal defense in any fraud-related case in Hillsborough or Pinellas County, contact our Stechschulte Nell today for an immediate consultation and quality representation at 813-280-1244.