Will I Get Convicted for the First-Time Offense of Credit Card Theft?

first time offense credit card theft

If you are a credit card holder, there might be a threat you may end up being a victim of credit card fraud sooner or later. A few studies even show that you are more likely to experience scams than to avoid them.

Credit card fraud has different forms: physical cards stolen and used before getting registered as missing; account holders tricked into disclosing their credit card information used for unauthorized purchases; account data compromised in enormous statistics breaches at stores, organizations, credit score bureaus, and other places; and full-blown identity theft, in which criminals open accounts and run up debt in someone else’s name. 

Even a first-time offender can face jail or prison time if convicted of credit card fraud theft. Let us learn about credit card theft, fraud, punishments, and defenses.

Credit Card Theft in the United States of America

In the US, it is unlawful to use a credit card or a credit card’s data (owner’s name, billing details) to mislead someone or an entity into a loss, even if you obtain an undue advantage.

It covers everything from skimming credit cards to using your expired credit card not to pay the balance. Credit card fraud can be prosecuted at both the state and federal levels.

State Crimes 

Most credit card fraud instances that lead to criminal charges are dealt with at the state and district levels. Various states prosecute fraud in another way. 

The severity of punishment depends on multiple elements, the fraudster’s criminal history, the amount stolen, any criminal cause (in preference to accidental misuse of credit card details), and whether or not the sufferer was aged. 

In a few states, if the severity of the crime warrants a legal conviction, the felony is broken down into various classes, typically based on the state’s identity theft laws

Credit Card Theft and Fraud

Different types of credit card theft and fraud are:

Fraudulent Ownership and Transfer of a Credit Card

When you knowingly obtain, sell or give someone a credit card without the owner’s consent.

Forging Credit Card Records

You may get charged with fraud if you modify a debit card, produce a fake one, or sign someone else’s name during a transaction without their permission. 

Fraudulent Use of an Access Card or Account Data

Using a stolen, altered, counterfeit, expired, or revoked credit or debit card to receive cash, goods, or services of value. It is punished based totally on the value of the objects.

Fraudulent Retail Transactions

When you use an altered, stolen, expired credit card that the store knows phony to finish a transaction for no trade of goods. In this situation, it permits the store to pocket the cash from the transaction without replacing anything in return.

Replicating Credit Cards

Altering, converting, or modifying any part of a credit card to deceive. It also consists of permitting another person to change a card in addition to trafficking in altered cards. 

Publishing Credit Card Details

Publishing is as any communication- verbal, written, or digital. It is also illegal to tell any details related to credit cards or bank account records, from ATM PINs to debit card numbers. 

Depending on the case’s specifics, getting charged with one or a combination of those is feasible.

Federal Crimes

In critical cases, you could be charged with a federal crime if the act happened across country lines, in opposition to a government entity, or entails a fraudulent scheme. For instance, you are making online purchases with someone else’s credit card or using a card issued to someone in every other domain, which is enough.

The United States government could prosecute someone under 18 USC 1029 credit card fraud laws if the offense happened under their jurisdiction. These fraud cases get investigated by federal regulation enforcement organizations, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and prosecuted aggressively.

If convicted of federal credit card fraud, it’s punishable by up to 20 years in jail, forfeiture of private assets, and massive fines depending upon the amount of loss in the case. 

Fraudulent credit card use can also fall under some other federal crimes, according to the Department of Justice, together with computer fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, and financial organization fraud, with consequences of up to 30 years in jail.

Defending Against Credit Card Fraud Charges

One key factor in credit card fraud cases is that the prosecution must exhibit that you meant to commit fraud, so the issue of “intent” plays an important role. 

A few defense strategies typically utilized in credit card fraud instances consist of the following-

  • Showing that you had the consent of credit card holder to bring their card in use.
  • Arguing that you didn’t know that you shouldn’t have used the card.
  • Demonstrating that you had been the victim of fallacious identity and did not commit the crime in question.
  • Searching the digital information used by the credit card enterprise to ensure it is correct.
  • Having proof opposing you suppressed if it was obtained illegally through law enforcement.

How Will an Attorney Help You?

If you are accused of credit card fraud, do not take the risk of not getting assistance from a skilled defense lawyer. A professional lawyer helps you in several ways, including-

  • Speaking to police and prosecutors on your behalf so that you don’t say something that could incriminate you.
  • Looking at the proof towards you to see if it was acquired legally. 
  • Negotiating with law enforcement for a plea agreement.
  • Representing you in the courtroom with a personalized protection strategy.


To conclude, credit card theft can be a petty or grand theft crime. The amount of jail penalty is different for each crime, and the amount of jail time for credit card theft relies upon the level and type of offense you get accused of committing. Distinct jurisdictions have distinctive levels for punishing credit card robbery. First-time offenses can also have severe consequences like harsh penalties, jail time, and fines and might prevent you from getting jobs and university admission.

If there was a lack of purpose to defraud or a case of mistaken identification, it could be possible to avoid a conviction. So, contact a skilled and experienced legal professional for legal representation if you get convicted.


When can there be a misdemeanor for credit card theft?

It can be a misdemeanor when the quantity stolen is tremendously small. For example, below $500 or $1000, the fraud is probably a misdemeanor. If found, the thief may face fines of up to $1,000 and up to 1-year imprisonment.

When will credit card fraud amount to a felony charge?

In maximum states, if the thief uses a stolen credit card to buy items or to get cash over the quantity defined as a misdemeanor, the crime turns into a legal one.

Is credit card theft a state crime or a federal crime?

Generally, credit card fraud is a state crime, but in a few cases, card fraud falls beneath federal jurisdiction. There are federal laws related to using gadgets, including skimmers or counterfeit access systems, to commit fraud.

Is there jail time for petty credit card theft?

Credit card petty theft is much less extreme than grand theft, which entails taking assets or money valued below $950. If convicted, you might be condemned to six months in jail or even extra, depending on the jurisdiction of various states.