There are three categories of credit card offenses in Virginia: credit card theft, credit card forgery, and credit card fraud.
Virginia classifies credit card offenses as a type of identity theft and treats these offenses as a serious crime. Each charge carries fines, penalties, and imprisonment.
Credit Card Theft
In order to win a conviction for credit card theft, the Commonwealth must be able to establish:
1) that the defendant took the credit card (or credit card number) from another person,
2) the taking was without the consent of the credit card holder,
3) the taking was with the intent to either use or sell the information.Mere possession of a stolen credit card is not a crime. The Commonwealth must also prove the credit card (or number) was taken wrongfully or was received with the knowledge that it had been taken wrongfully. Possession of several stolen credit cards can serve as prima facie evidence that the crime has occurred.A person found guilty of credit card theft can face up to 20 years in prison and $2,500 in fines. In addition, they generally must pay restitution to the victim. (Va. Code 18.2-192)Credit Card ForgeryIn order to win a conviction for credit card forgery, the Commonwealth must establish:
1) that the defendant bought something of value from a merchant using the credit card,
2) that the defendant was not the cardholder or a person authorized by the cardholder to use the credit card,
3) that the defendant intended to defraud the issuer.Again, the Commonwealth cannot merely show that the defendant was not the cardholder and used the card. They must show the additional element of intent to defraud the issuer. This offense carries 1-10 years in prison as well as up to $2,500 in fines. Again, the convicted person generally will have to pay restitution to the victim. (Va. Code 18.2-193)
Credit Card Fraud
To win a conviction for credit card fraud, the Commonwealth must establish:
1) that the defendant took the credit card (or number) from another person,
2) the taking was with intent to use, sell, or transfer the number to someone other than the cardholder or issuer,
3) that the defendant used the credit card (or number) to buy something of value,
4) that the defendant had the intent to defraud.Other variations of this offense include using an expired or revoked card (or card number), false representation, fraudulent application for a credit card, possession of credit card forgery devices, and unlawful use of credit card scanners or re-encoders.If the value of everything obtained wrongfully by the defendant exceeds $200 within a 6 month period, the offense is a class 6 felony and carries 1-3 years in prison. Otherwise, the offense is treated as a class 1 misdemeanor, and carries up to 12 months in jail and up to $2,500 in fines. (Va. Code 18.2-195)If you are facing criminal charges for any credit card offense, you should talk to an attorney right away to discuss your options.Photo by David Castillo Dominici. Published on 07 October 2011