A debit card is a convenient tool for consumers to use when making purchases at the grocery store, at a restaurant or online. Like a credit card, it is a piece of plastic with a chip or magnetic strip used to authenticate an account. Therefore, just like a credit card, it is possible for individuals to scam card numbers or otherwise gain access to a debit card in a fraudulent manner.
What Are the Penalties for Debit Card Fraud?
In the state of New York, using a stolen debit card to make a purchase or otherwise derive a benefit is a misdemeanor that can result in a fine up to $1,000 and up to a year in jail. If you are found to be in possession of a stolen credit or debit card, you could be charged with a felony and spend up to four years in jail. In addition, you face a fine of up to $5,000 or double the amount gained from the crime. For those who have committed a felony in the last 10 years, a prison sentence of up to three years may be included.
Federal Penalties May Apply in Addition to State Penalties
In the event that you use a stolen debit card to commit fraud across state lines, you could face federal charges. Federal charges may also come into play if you steal government property or use a government debit card to commit fraud. In many cases, an individual could face up to 20 years in prison in addition to a large fine on top of whatever state sentence is handed down.
What Are the Defenses to Debit Card Fraud
One of the keys to proving that fraud took place was the intent of the individual using the card. For instance, if you didn’t know that the card that you were using was stolen or cancelled, there is little chance that you could be prosecuted. Also, you generally have to steal more than $1,000 before you face any serious charges.
In the event that you have permission to use a debit card that belongs to someone else, you may be able to defend against a charge of fraud. For instance, if your roommate says that you stole money from him or her, you could argue that you had permission to use the card to make a specific purchase. From there, bank statements and other records may be used to prove your assertion.
Plea Bargains Could Help Reduce Penalties
A plea bargain results in a conviction on a specific set of charges that may or may not relate to the original charge itself. For instance, if you are charged with felony federal debit card fraud, it may be possible to reduce the charge to petty larceny. This depends partially on the strength of the case against you as well as your prior track record and other facts in the case.
Prosecutors and judges may be willing to work with those who are first-time offenders or who show remorse for their actions. Instead of jail or prison time, a plea bargain may allow an offender to spend time on probation or do community service in lieu of a fine. Downgrading a charge from a felony to a misdemeanor may also impact whether that person can vote, own a gun or find employment.
If you have been charged with debit card fraud, it is important that you talk to an attorney as soon as possible. An attorney may take steps to have your case dismissed or negotiate a plea bargain. This may make it easier to clear your name or otherwise come to terms on a sentence that is as favorable as possible.