Fraudulent use of a credit device in Missouri is a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in jail and/or a $2000 fine when the value of the property or service stolen is under $750. When it is $750 or more within a 30-day period, the crime is a class E felony punishable by up to 4 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
Please note that these punishment ranges are maximums. It is entirely possible to avoid incarceration for a conviction and instead receive a period of probation. If the circumstances are not clear-cut, a good defense lawyer may even arrange for the prosecutor to drop the charges or secure a not-guilty verdict at trial.
Circumstances that give rise to a fraudulent use of a credit device charge can also usually support theft, forgery, or identity theft charges. Oddly, theft over $750 and forgery are both class D felonies, a higher punishment level than fraudulent use of a credit device over $750.
Fraudulent use of a credit device is defined in RSMo 570.130.1. It occurs when a person uses a credit or debit device to obtain services or property, knowing that:
- The device was stolen, fictitious, or forged; or
- The device has been revoked or canceled; or
- For any other reason his or her use of the device is unauthorized; or
- The device is used to pay property taxes, and the charge is canceled without good reason.
The statutory definition of a “credit device” borders on the incomprehensible, but the vast majority of cases involve plain old credit cards. Fraudulent use of a debit card is also covered by this statute, but checks or other bank drafts are not. Importantly, fraudulent use of a public assistance card like EBT is included.
In order to prove its case, the state must show that you knew that the use of the credit device was fraudulent and that you were the person who actually used the card. Sometimes this is straightforward and easy; other times, there are gray areas a good attorney can construct a defense around.
The state can, unfortunately, prove its case circumstantially. They need only show that there is sufficient evidence for a judge or jury to conclude a defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. They do not need to show an unbroken chain of facts that prove 100% certainty.
What this means, as shown in State v. Vestal 740 S.W. 2d, is that a pattern of suspicious activity with a stolen or canceled card is enough to show guilt. They don't even need to show that you possess a stolen card. For instance, if you were found to be in possession of goods purchased online with a stolen card number and shipped to a location you had access to, you could have a difficult time fighting the charges.
The best way to defend yourself against fraudulent use of a credit device charges is to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney. It can seem like the state has all the advantages, but a good lawyer can level the playing field for you. If you need help, give Ruth Beerup a call at 636-940-1111.