Using someone’s credit card might not seem like a big deal, especially if the card belongs to a close relative, like your mother. Unfortunately, the law views things very differently. Texas law criminalizes the use of credit cards that don’t belong to you, and the penalties are severe enough to include possible time in jail. If you are facing accusations of credit card fraud, contact a Houston criminal defense attorney at our office today.
What Is Credit Card Fraud?
Under Section 32.31 of the Penal Code, it is illegal to use or present a credit card with the intent to obtain a fraudulent benefit if you know the card has not been issued to you and you do not have the owner’s consent to use it.
Broken down, this means you need your mother’s consent to use her card. But what if you didn’t have it? Then you have committed a crime if you used the card to obtain a benefit, such as to purchase goods from a store or online.
Did You Have Permission to Use the Card?
This is the most obvious defense. You have permission if you can show your mother told you to use the card in writing or verbally. Proof is key. You might claim she gave you permission. But if she says otherwise, then you might be prosecuted for fraud.
There is no right to use a family member’s card without their permission. That’s just the law.
Jail is Definitely a Possibility
Any conviction for credit card abuse is a state jail felony. In Texas, this means you are looking at between 180 days to two years in state jail. You will also face a maximum $10,000 fine.
If your mother is 65 or older, then you have committed the offense against an elderly person as defined by statute. The offense gets upgraded to a third-degree felony, which carries between 2 and 10 years in prison, along with a maximum $10,000 fine. Texas aims to protect the elderly from financial scams or abuse, so the punishment goes up.
Other Defenses Are Hard to Bring
For example, the law requires that you “knowingly” use someone else’s card. You might think it’s a good defense to claim you didn’t know it was your mom’s card. Unfortunately, her name is printed on it, so you should know it was hers. You would also need some explanation for why you had her credit card in your possession. Most people will assume you possessed it with the intent to use it.
All hope is not lost, however. The state has the burden of proving all elements beyond a reasonable doubt, and lack of consent is one of those elements. You might create enough doubt on this issue to avoid a conviction.
Call the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today to discuss your case. Credit card fraud cases are difficult to win, but we will discuss your legal options with you. Call or send us a message to schedule a meeting.