Two Kinds of Credit Card Theft in Virginia

In Scott v. Commonwealth, the Supreme Court of Virginia recently clarified that there are two types of credit card theft prohibited by Virginia Code Section 18.2.-192(1)(a). The code reads:

(1) A person is guilty of credit card or credit card number theft when: (a) He takes, obtains or withholds a credit card or credit card number from the person, possession, custody or control of another without the cardholder’s consent or who, with knowledge that it has been so taken, obtained or withheld, receives the credit card or credit card number with intent to use it or sell it, or to transfer it to a person other than the issuer or the cardholder …

As the Supreme Court of Virginia explained, this parses out to a prohibition against: (1) taking, obtaining, or withholding a credit card or a credit card number without the permission of the card holder or account owner; and (2) receiving a credit card or credit card number with the intent to use it, sell it, or otherwise transfer it to someone other than its owner.

This first crime is broad, and it’s important to understand that the crime is fully committed the moment that the credit card or credit card number is taken. See Meeks v. Commonwealth, 651 S.E.2d 637 (2007). One doesn’t actually have to use the stolen credit card in order to be guilty of credit card theft. Likewise, one need not use the numbers they take to be guilty of credit card number theft.

The second crime is a little more narrow. In order to be guilty of it one must receive a credit card or credit card number with the knowledge that it has been taken and with the intent to sell it or transfer it to someone else. This is what’s called a specific intent crime. To be guilty, one must have the specific intent listed in the statute. Here, one must intend to sell the credit card or credit card number to someone other than its rightful owner.

Credit card and credit card number theft is grand larceny punishable by imprisonment in a state correctional facility for “not less than one nor more than twenty years” or confinement in “jail for a period not exceeding twelve months,” a fine of not more than $2500.00, either or both.

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