Credit Card Crime
CJ309 Credit Card Crime
Credit Card Crime
Identity theft is the fastest growing cyber crime in the nation and across the globe. When a person steals a credit card of another person and uses the credit card illegally they have stolen the identity of another person. In this scenario the criminal defendant unwittingly picked up the credit card of another person and used it four times. The question is first have they actually committed a crime and second can they be charged with multiple violations of a state statute that makes it a crime to “knowingly obtain, possess, use, or transfer a means of identification or financial information of another.
In the first question state statue makes it a crime to knowingly obtain another person’s credit card. The defendant in this case did not knowingly commit the crime. In order to commit a crime the crime must consist of two elements. These elements are mens rea (guilty mind) and actus reus (guilty act). If one element does not exist a crime has not been committed. In this scenario it can be difficult to prove the credit card was obtained unwittingly and used four times so the next question pertains to whether or not they can be charged with multiple violations of a state statue making illegal credit card use a crime.
The question of whether or not a person can be charged with multiple violations of a state statue arose in State vs. Leyda. In this case Leyda and another codefendant were charged with knowingly using the credit card of victim Cynthia Austin on four separate occasions. When the criminal defendant used the credit card on multiple occasions he was charged in multiple acts of identity theft. Leyda challenged his four identity theft convictions here, arguing that the unit of prosecution was the act of obtaining the identity information rather than its subsequent use (Findlaw, 2007). Leyda also challenged other convictions for different reason pertaining to a constitutional failure to list the amount of items stolen.
The criminal defendant, Leyda, was charged with four counts of identity theft but the court agreed that Leyda had in fact only committed one act of identity theft when he stole the actual credit card. In the case were the criminal defendant unwittingly used a credit of another person if they were charged under a state statute for “knowingly obtain, possess, use, or transfer a means of identification or financial information of another they would only be charged with one count of identity theft but multiple counts of theft for the actual illegal use of the credit card. The difference in this case is the criminal defendant is claiming to have unknowingly used the credit card.
In the case of State vs. Leyda the Washington Supreme Court found concerning the four identity theft charges that an “essential element is one whose specification is necessary to establish the very illegality of the behavior (Findlaw, 2007).” In order to be able to show the criminal defendant intended to steal the credit card and then illegally use the card four times there must be an element of the guilty mind present. In this case there was no guilty mind just the guilty act. In the case of State vs. Leyda the criminal defendant purposively used the credit card that was obtained without the permission of the owner making them guilty of the act of theft.
In order to commit a crime both elements of the crime must be present but when both element exist the defendant can only be charged once for the crime of identity theft. Leyda did not steal the credit card four times but instead committed four acts of theft when he knowingly used the credit card to purchase illegally gotten goods. According to the ruling in Leyda a defendant cannot be charged more than once for a crime under state law.
Findlaw. (2007). Supreme Court of Washington, En Banc. STATE of Washington, Respondent,
v. Steven Edward LEYDA, Petitioner. Retrieved February 19, 2014 from