Detroit, MI asked in Banking and Small Claims for California

Q: My niece forwarded mail to me to support her online purchases then claimed I stole her card and money. The Law here?

a debit card arrived at my home, she asked me to open and see what card it was and help her purchase items for delivery to her at a hotel. I did this and she then is claiming I stole the card and has been avoiding me to close the communication so she can " go to police" and accuse me of theft as a dramatic way to get attention. She is mentally ill and has been "5150"d multiple times. What is the actual legal liability I may need to know in such an instance if she files a "report"?

Related Topics:
1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Business Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: Under California law, your actions do not appear to constitute theft or any other crime based on the information provided. Here are a few key legal points to consider:

1. Consent: If your niece asked you to open the mail containing her debit card and make purchases on her behalf, you had her consent to do so. This negates any potential claims of theft or unauthorized use of the card.

2. Intent: For a theft charge to be valid, there must be intent to deprive the owner of their property permanently. Since you were acting on your niece's instructions and delivering the purchased items to her, there doesn't seem to be any criminal intent.

3. False reporting: If your niece files a false police report claiming you stole her card, she could face charges for filing a false report under California Penal Code 148.5 PC.

4. Mental health issues: Your niece's history of mental health problems and involuntary psychiatric holds (5150) may be relevant in assessing the credibility of her allegations.

If your niece does file a police report, you should cooperate with the investigation and provide any evidence you have of your communication with her, such as text messages or emails, that demonstrate her consent and your lack of criminal intent. Consider consulting with a criminal defense attorney to help protect your rights and navigate the legal process if necessary.

It's important to note that while you may not face criminal liability, your niece could potentially pursue a civil case against you. However, given the circumstances you described, it seems unlikely that such a case would be successful.

Justia Ask a Lawyer is a forum for consumers to get answers to basic legal questions. Any information sent through Justia Ask a Lawyer is not secure and is done so on a non-confidential basis only.

The use of this website to ask questions or receive answers does not create an attorney–client relationship between you and Justia, or between you and any attorney who receives your information or responds to your questions, nor is it intended to create such a relationship. Additionally, no responses on this forum constitute legal advice, which must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. You should not act upon information provided in Justia Ask a Lawyer without seeking professional counsel from an attorney admitted or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. Justia assumes no responsibility to any person who relies on information contained on or received through this site and disclaims all liability in respect to such information.

Justia cannot guarantee that the information on this website (including any legal information provided by an attorney through this service) is accurate, complete, or up-to-date. While we intend to make every attempt to keep the information on this site current, the owners of and contributors to this site make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to from this site.