California Penal Code § 530.5 – Identity Theft

  1. Introduction

    A person who uses an electronic device to publish personal information of another without consent, for the purpose of causing unwanted contact or harassment, and with the intention of placing that person in fear for his or her safety or the safety of his or her immediate family, may be charged with a misdemeanor and punished by up to one year in jail and/or a fine up to $1000.

  2. Text of Statute(s)

    “(a) Every person who, with intent to place another person in reasonable fear for his or her safety, or the safety of the other person's immediate family, by means of an electronic communication device, and without consent of the other person, and for the purpose of imminently causing that other person unwanted physical contact, injury, or harassment, by a third party, electronically distributes, publishes, e-mails, hyperlinks, or makes available for downloading, personal identifying information, including, but not limited to, a digital image of another person, or an electronic message of a harassing nature about another person, which would be likely to incite or produce that unlawful action, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in a county jail, by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment.

    (b) For purposes of this section, ‘electronic communication device’ includes, but is not limited to, telephones, cell phones, computers, Internet Web pages or sites, Internet phones, hybrid cellular/Internet/wireless devices, personal digital assistants (PDAs), video recorders, fax machines, or pagers. “Electronic communication” has the same meaning as the term is defined in Section 2510(12) of Title 18 of the United States Code.

    (c) For purposes of this section, the following terms apply:

    (1) ‘Harassment’ means a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person that a reasonable person would consider as seriously alarming, seriously annoying, seriously tormenting, or seriously terrorizing the person and that serves no legitimate purpose.

    (2) ‘Of a harassing nature’ means of a nature that a reasonable person would consider as seriously alarming, seriously annoying, seriously tormenting, or seriously terrorizing of the person and that serves no legitimate purpose.”1

  3. Cases

    1. People v. Casco, No. G049375, 2015 WL 2455083 (Cal. Ct. App. May 22, 2015).

      • Procedural Posture: Defendant appeals Superior Court convictions on one count each of conspiracy to commit harassment by an electronic communication device and stalking, plus four counts each of false personation and identity theft.

      • Law: Harassment by an electronic communication device (Cal. Penal Code § 653.2); stalking (Cal. Penal Code § 646.9); false personation (Cal. Penal Code § 529); identity theft (Cal. Penal Code § 530.5)

      • Facts: Defendant created a fake MySpace profile that contain photographs and personal information, including name and address, of multiple victims. The MySpace profile also contained “sexually explicit music and comments.” Defendant also created advertisements on numerous websites containing language that suggested victims were offering sexual services for money and containing sexually explicit photographs and personal information, including victims’ name, address photographs and phone number. At trial, the victims testified as to how these advertisements and profiles caused them to fear for their safety and required them to move to a residence.

      • Outcome: The court concluded that there was sufficient evidence to support defendant’s multiple convictions.

    2. People v. Rosa, No. F063748, 2013 WL 941728 (Cal. Ct. App. Mar. 12, 2013).

      • Procedural Posture: Defendant appealed from jury convictions on charges arising from defendant’s course of conduct to terrorize his ex-wife.

      • Law: Stalking (Cal. Penal Code § 646.9); false personation (Cal. Penal Code § 529); identity theft (Cal. Penal Code § 530.5); unauthorized electronic distribution of personal identifying information (Cal. Penal Code § 653.2)

      • Facts: Defendant was married to victim for 10 years. Victim relocated to California, and the parties divorced. Shortly thereafter, while Victim was working at a bank, she began receiving phone calls from men saying they were calling about her ad on the Internet. Over a three-week period, victim received twelve or more calls from strangers; was shouted at by a stranger, and stranger waited at victim’s car after work and made rude comments to her. Eventually, victim changed jobs and had to move because of the constant harassment. Victim eventually checked and found an online personal advertisement containing four nude photographs of her taken during her marriage to defendant. Victim never gave defendant permission to display the nude photos publicly. Victim reported the ads to the police, and subpoenas to the Internet service provider identified the subscriber who posted the ads as defendant’s former roommate. After being convicted by a jury, defendant appealed, arguing that the convictions should be overturned on various grounds.

      • Outcome: Defendant did not challenge the unauthorized electronic distribution of personal identifying information charge; conviction affirmed.

  1. Cal. Penal Code § 653.2.