California Supreme Court defines difference between identity theft and theft


“What we must decide here is whether a felony conviction for misuse of personal identifying information under section 530.5, subdivision (a) can be reduced to misdemeanor shoplifting under Proposition 47, which was approved by voters in the November 4, 2014 General Election. We hold that it cannot. Proposition 47 added section 459.5 to the Penal Code, which dictates that an “act of shoplifting . . . shall be charged as shoplifting,” and that “[n]o person who is charged with shoplifting may also be charged with burglary or theft of the same property.” (§ 459.5, subd. (b).) Its prohibition applies only to “burglary or theft” offenses. (Ibid.) Although misuse of identifying information is sometimes colloquially described as “identity theft,” the language, context, and history of section 530.5, subdivision (a) tells us no “burglary or theft” offense is committed by virtue of a defendant violating that statute.” Section 530.5 criminalizes the willful use of someone’s personal identifying information for an unlawful purpose, not an unlawful taking. It is not a theft offense because criminal liability pivots on how the information was used rather than how it was acquired. The offense therefore evinces a concern with the panoply of harms occurring when personal information is no longer personal. A conviction for misuse of identifying information is not subject to reclassification as misdemeanor shoplifting. Because the Court of Appeal held otherwise, we reverse its judgment and remand.  IN THE SUPREME COURT OF CALIFORNIA THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. MIGUEL ANGEL JIMENEZ, Defendant and Respondent.

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