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In Austin, credit card fraud or abuse means using someone else's credit card without their permission, which can lead to serious consequences if you're found guilty. This crime usually involves either buying things or taking out money with a card that's not yours. If you're accused of this, it's important to understand how serious the situation is and what to do about it. Below, Cofer & Connelly, PLLC will explain what this crime involves, look at possible ways to defend against charges, and discuss how credit card fraud lawyers can really make a difference in your case.

Facing credit card abuse charges? Act fast to defend your rights. Cofer & Connelly, PLLC, a top Texas defense firm, has over 100 years of combined experience and has handled thousands of cases, including over 300 jury trials. Call (512) 991-0576 or visit our website for a consultation.

What is Credit Card Abuse?

According to Texas Penal Code Section 32.31, credit card abuse happens when someone uses a credit or debit card to get something of value without the right to do so. If you use someone else's card without their permission, or if you use a card that has expired or has been canceled, you are committing credit card abuse. The law covers a variety of situations: using a stolen card, possessing someone else’s card without their permission, using a fake card, or even holding a card with the plan to make it work even though it’s not complete yet.

To prove you committed credit card abuse, a prosecutor must show that you intended to commit fraud—that you knew what you were doing was wrong but you did it anyway to get a benefit. For example, if you use a card knowing it was canceled or expired, it’s assumed you knew this if the card company had already told you so. Additionally, if you lie about providing goods or services as a business accepting these cards, that's also considered credit card abuse.

What Are the Penalties for Credit Card Abuse?

The penalties for credit card abuse in Texas depend on the severity of the offense. The basic penalty is being charged with a state jail felony, which can land you in a state jail for 180 days to two years and possibly include a fine up to $10,000. However, if the offense involves an elderly person, it becomes a third-degree felony. This carries a heavier penalty of 2-10 years behind bars and fine of $10,000.

The seriousness of the offense can escalate the charges you face. For example, larger scale fraud or causing significant financial damage could lead to even more severe penalties under Texas law. Always remember, the specific circumstances of how the card was used, who was affected, and how much was stolen or fraudulently charged play a critical role in determining the exact penalty.

What is Fraudulent Use or Possession of Credit Card Information?

Under Texas Penal Code Section 32.315, fraudulent use or possession of credit card information involves several actions that you might commit to harm or deceive someone else. If you use, possess, transfer, or get credit card or debit card information without the consent of the card owner, you are committing fraud. This includes handling counterfeit cards—cards that appear genuine but aren't issued by an authorized issuer, have been altered, or display incorrect information about the cardholder or account.

Moreover, using or possessing just the card number and expiration date alone can also be fraudulent if you don't have permission from the card owner. Similarly, if you access and use the data stored on the card's digital imprint (the encoded information on the card) without consent, this too is considered fraudulent. Importantly, if you have five or more such pieces of information, it is assumed by law that you did not have permission to have them, although you can challenge this assumption in court.

What Are the Penalties for Fraudulent Possession or Use of Credit Card Information?

The penalties for fraudulently having or using credit card information in Texas are scaled based on the quantity of information you handle. If you are found with fewer than five items, such as credit card numbers or digital imprints, it's classified as a state jail felony, the least severe category for this offense. However, if the number of items is between five and nine, the crime is elevated to a felony of the third degree.

Handling ten to forty-nine items results in a felony of the second degree, marking a more serious level of offense because of the larger quantity of compromised data. The most severe classification, a felony of the first degree, is for cases involving fifty or more items.

For each category, the consequences are progressively more severe, involving longer jail times and higher fines. Additionally, if convicted, courts may order restitution, requiring you to reimburse victims for losses incurred because of the fraudulent activity, although this does not include attorney's fees.

If you're convicted of credit card abuse in Texas, you might avoid jail by getting community supervision (probation) instead. This option allows you to live at home under certain rules instead of going to jail. You must follow these rules closely and report to a probation officer regularly.

Criminal Process for Individuals Facing Credit Card Abuse Charges

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If you're investigated or charged with credit card abuse in Texas, here's what typically happens: First, you might be arrested or receive a summons to appear in court. Next, you'll go to an initial hearing where the charges against you are read, and you can plead guilty or not guilty. If you plead not guilty, the case might go to trial where evidence is presented. Throughout this process, you have the right to have a credit card abuse lawyer defend you, and it’s crucial to use this right to fight for a fair outcome.

Potential Defenses in Credit Card Abuse Cases

If you're charged with credit card abuse or fraudulent use or possession of a credit card, you have several defenses available. One common defense is lack of intent. If you did not intend to commit fraud, such as if you believed the card was yours to use, this could be a strong defense. Another defense is mistake of fact, which applies if you used a card mistakenly thinking it was valid or authorized. If you can prove that the cardholder gave you permission to use the card, this consent could nullify allegations of unauthorized use.

In some cases, you might argue that there was no knowledge that the card was expired, revoked, or cancelled. If you can show that you weren’t aware of the card’s status, it could help your defense. Additionally, proving that you didn’t receive proper notice of cancellation or expiration as required by law could also work in your favor. Lastly, if the card was used without your knowledge, demonstrating that someone else committed the act (identity theft) could be another viable defense.

Each case is unique, so it's important to discuss your specific circumstances with your lawyer, who can help you identify the most applicable defenses based on the evidence and the law.

How a Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help

A criminal defense lawyer’s role is to protect your rights and build a strong defense on your behalf. They will review all the evidence against you, looking for any weaknesses in the prosecution's case. This includes checking if there were any legal mistakes made during your arrest or in handling your charges, which could possibly lead to having your charges reduced or dismissed.

A credit card fraud attorney will also represent you in all court appearances, argue on your behalf, and negotiate with prosecutors, aiming to achieve the best possible outcome for your case, whether it’s a lighter sentence or clearing your name. They provide guidance through each step of the legal process, helping you understand what to expect next and making sure you are prepared for each phase of your defense. You don't have to go through this alone; they’re able to advocate for you and defend your interests.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is credit card abuse? It's when someone uses a credit card without permission to obtain benefits or goods fraudulently.

How can someone be charged with credit card abuse? You can be charged if you use, possess, or transfer a credit card without the cardholder's consent.

What are the penalties for credit card abuse in Texas? Credit card abuse is typically a state jail felony but can be harsher under certain circumstances.

Can I be charged if I just hold someone else’s credit card? Yes, if you possess a credit card without the owner’s consent, intending to use it.

What should I do if accused of credit card abuse? Contact a lawyer immediately to discuss your rights and potential defenses.

Is it still abuse if the card was expired? Yes, using an expired or revoked card knowingly is considered abuse.

What defenses are available for credit card abuse charges? Some defenses may include lack of intent, mistaken identity, or unauthorized use claims.

Can credit card abuse charges be dropped? Yes, especially if there is insufficient evidence or if you were wrongly accused.

What if I accidentally used someone else’s credit card? Accidental use can be a valid defense if you can prove there was no fraudulent intent.

Contact an Austin Credit Card Abuse Attorney

If you're facing charges for credit card abuse, you want to act quickly to protect your rights. Cofer & Connelly, PLLC is a preferred defense firm in Texas, boasting over 100 years of experience, thousands of cases handled, and extensive jury trial experience with more than 300 cases. Contact Cofer & Connelly, PLLC by calling (512) 991-0576 or contacting us online for a consultation with a credit card fraud attorney. Our experienced lawyers can help you understand your legal options and develop a strategy to defend against these charges.

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