Credit Card Abuse
Credit Card Abuse Attorney in Houston, Conroe, and The Woodlands
Have you been arrested and charged with the crime of Credit Card Abuse in Fort Worth or a surrounding city in Tarrant County, Texas? If so, you need the help of an experienced and aggressive team of criminal defense attorneys that can protect you from a prison sentence and a felony conviction.
There is a lot of confusion and misinformation regarding what constitutes the Texas criminal charge of credit card abuse. In order to prepare for you or your loved one’s criminal defense, it is critical to gain a basic understanding of Texas criminal law regarding the crime of credit card abuse.
What Is Credit Card Abuse?
Texas Penal Code §32.31 states that a person commits the offense of Credit or Debit Card Abuse if the State of Texas can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person, with intent to obtain a benefit fraudulently, presents or uses a credit card or debit card with knowledge that:
- the card, whether or not expired, has not been issued to him and is not used with the effective consent of the cardholder; or
- the card has expired or has been revoked or cancelled.
Additionally, the Texas Penal Code states that you can commit the crime of credit card abuse if:
- with intent to obtain a benefit, he uses a fictitious credit card or debit card or the pretended number or description of a fictitious card;
- he receives a benefit that he knows has been obtained in violation of this section;
- he steals a credit card or debit card or, with knowledge that it has been stolen, receives a credit card or debit card with intent to use it, to sell it, or to transfer it to a person other than the issuer or the cardholder;
- he buys a credit card or debit card from a person who he knows is not the issuer;
- not being the issuer, he sells a credit card or debit card;
- he uses or induces the cardholder to use the cardholder’s credit card or debit card to obtain property or service for the actor’s benefit for which the cardholder is financially unable to pay;
- not being the cardholder, and without the effective consent of the cardholder, he possesses a credit card or debit card with intent to use it;
- he possesses two or more incomplete credit cards or debit cards that have not been issued to him with intent to complete them without the effective consent of the issuer. For purposes of this subdivision, a card is incomplete if part of the matter that an issuer requires to appear on the card before it can be used, other than the signature of the cardholder, has not yet been stamped, embossed, imprinted, or written on it;
- being authorized by an issuer to furnish goods or services on presentation of a credit card or debit card, he, with intent to defraud the issuer or the cardholder, furnishes goods or services on presentation of a credit card or debit card obtained or retained in violation of this section or a credit card or debit card that is forged, expired, or revoked; or
- being authorized by an issuer to furnish goods or services on presentation of a credit card or debit card, he, with intent to defraud the issuer or a cardholder, fails to furnish goods or services that he represents in writing to the issuer that he has furnished.
There are other ways one can commit the offense of credit card abuse, but the two ways listed above are the most common. Basically, it is possible you could be facing a Credit Card Abuse charge if there is any improper use with the intent to defraud another.
Is Credit Card Abuse A Felony In Texas?
Yes. The crime of credit card abuse has been labeled a felony by the Texas legislature. Generally, credit card abuse is a state jail felony, punishable by a term in prison of not less than 180 days and not more than 2 years and a fine not to exceed $10,000.
However, if the prosecutor can prove that the credit card abuse was committed against an elderly individual, the charge can be filed as a 3rd degree felony, punishable by a term in prison of not less than 2 years and not more than 10 years, and a fine not to exceed $10,000.
Does The Value Of The Items Matter For Credit Card Abuse?
NO! This is one of the main differences between credit card abuse and theft under Texas law. Although credit card abuse can be a form of theft, the value of the items fraudulently charged on a credit card do not matter when it comes to being arrested for a felony or a misdemeanor crime.
For example: what if John used someone else’s credit card, without their permission, to buy $5.00 worth of food from a fast food restaurant. Is this a misdemeanor? No! If John had walked into the restaurant and grabbed a plate of food and ran out the door, he would have been charged with a misdemeanor theft crime. Why? Because as long as the value of the food was less than $100.00, he would be charged with a Class C Misdemeanor ticket of Theft. However, by using someone else’s credit card to complete the same theft, he will now be facing a state jail felony credit card abuse charge with a possible punishment of up to 2 years in prison.
Defenses To The Crime Of Credit Card Abuse In Texas
If you or a loved one is facing a credit card abuse charge in the North Texas area, it is crucial that you not only hire the best criminal defense attorney in Houston, Conroe and The Woodlands, you must also educate yourself on the possible criminal defenses available to you for the crime of credit card abuse.
Lack Of Criminal Intent To Obtain a Benefit
In order to be convicted for the crime of credit card abuse, the prosecutor will be required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you used the card of another without their consent and with the intent to obtain a benefit fraudulently.
What if the credit card or debit card was used but there is no proof that it was used with the criminal intent to obtain a benefit to the accused? In other words, we have seen instances where someone used a credit card without the consent of the owner but the purchase was made clearly for the benefit of the owner of the credit card. We have seen citizens investigated for credit card fraud because they purchased items for an incapacitated family member and later the family member became upset. It is critical that every element of the crime be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, including intent to obtain a benefit.
Alibi Establishing Misidentification Of The Suspect
What if you are the lead suspect for credit card abuse but the video showing the transaction was blurry or the identification is based upon a faulty witness identification? It is critical to scour through your receipts, phone records or witness accounts that may establish that you were at a different location at the time of the alleged crime. If you have evidence establishing an alibi, you must provide that to your criminal lawyer as soon as possible to try to get your credit card abuse case dismissed.
Lack Of Proof Establishing Suspect’s Knowledge The Card Was Stolen
What if you received a credit or debit card and did not know the card was stolen? For example, we represented a client charged with credit card abuse because he used his employer’s credit card for gas to be used in the company vehicle. However, the client had no idea that the card that was given to him by his supervisor was a stolen card that he did not have the authority to be using. In this situation, should he be found guilty for using a credit card he was not aware was stolen? No!
Consent To Use The Credit Card or Debit Card
We find this situation arise frequently in the employer/employee relationship. For example, what if an employee had been given permission to use a business credit card during employment but something soured the employment arrangement and now the employer is claiming the employee exceeded the scope of their authority when using the credit card? The real question here that must be explored by your criminal attorney is whether or not the accused REASONABLY believed they had consent to use the credit card. If so, there is no crime. Remember, if your criminal defense lawyer can establish reasonable doubt regarding this issue, you can obtain valuable leverage to negotiate a favorable result to your criminal case.
We have examined a few possible defenses available to you when you are fighting the charge of credit card abuse. What can you do if you have a strong legal defense? Is there a way to get your credit card abuse case dismissed quickly? We will now spend a few minutes examining the grand jury process.
How The Texas Grand Jury System Can Get Your Credit Card Abuse Case Dismissed
Establishing a strong criminal defense is only the first step in getting your credit card abuse case dismissed. You must also work with your criminal defense attorney to prepare a packet of evidence to make a presentation to a grand jury.
Under Texas criminal law, every felony in Texas is required to be presented to a grand jury. A grand jury is a panel of Texas citizens tasked with the responsibility of determining if there is sufficient evidence to establish a felony case. Normally, without the assistance of an aggressive and experienced criminal attorney, the grand jury hears only the evidence presented by a prosecutor and makes a decision regarding the felony case. Usually, this results in the case being true billed (approved as a felony case) and assigned to a felony district court.
However, if your criminal lawyer presents an evidence packet to the grand jury, your felony case could be lowered to a lesser misdemeanor charge or rejected altogether with a no bill. A no bill is the same thing as the grand jury exonerating you and clearing you from all wrongdoing. However, you must not delay in this process. Typically, felony cases in the Houston area are presented to a grand jury within the first 90 days after an arrest. Sometimes, case can be indicted by a grand jury as quickly as a few days or weeks.
If your criminal defense lawyer is able to persuade the grand jury to no bill your case, you will be eligible to have your arrest records and criminal case records expunged. An expunction is the equivalent of wiping your record clean and getting a fresh start.
As you can see from all the options mentioned, the charge of credit card abuse is a serious allegation and you must act quickly to work with a criminal attorney that can protect your future and ensure you do not face jail time or a conviction.
If you have a case in the Houston area, we want to offer you a free case analysis and consultation. Don’t hesitate to contact our office and we will be happy to explain your options and what we can do to get your life back!