Information on the crime of service dog fraud is found at California penal code section 365.7 PC. This article focuses on the law, punishment, and common defenses related to PC 365.7.
PC 365.7(a) Law
Per PC 365.7(a): Any person who knowingly and fraudulently represents himself or herself, through verbal or written notice, to be the owner or trainer of any canine licensed as, to be qualified as, or identified as, a guide dog, signal dog, or service dog, … is guilty of service dog fraud (PC 365.7 Abbrev.).
A service dog “owner” means any person who owns a guide dog, signal dog, or service dog, or who is authorized by the owner to use the guide, signal, or service dog (PC 365.7(b) Abbrev.).
Definition of Service Dog: A “Service” dog is a canine that is either a “guide dog,” “signal dog,” or “service dog,” as defined in penal code 365.5 as follows:
A “guide dog” means any guide dog or Seeing Eye dog that was trained by a person licensed … to train a dog as a Seeing Eye Dog… or trained by a person that otherwise meets the legal criteria of Seeing Eye Dog Trainer under the American with Disabilities Act of 1990 (PC 365.5(d) Abbrev.).
A “signal dog” means any dog trained to alert a deaf person, or a person whose hearing is impaired, to intruders or sounds (PC 365.5(e) Abbrev.).
A “service dog” means any dog individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to, minimal protection work, rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, or fetching dropped items (PC 365.5(f) Abbrev.).
Note: A person who requires the use of a service dog may use any dog trained as such, even if the trained service dog is not owned by the person who requires the service dog.
Example: Susan likes to fly with her dog, but Susan’s dog is a not a “service dog,” Susan is not a service dog trainer, and Susan is not a disabled person who requires a service dog. Nevertheless, Susan pretends that she requires a service dog so that she can fly with her pet. Result: If Susan is caught fraudulently representing that her pet is a service dog, then she may be criminally charged with PC 365.7.
Example II: Lisa has a dog that she likes to take with her when she vacations in California. Lisa places a “Service Dog in Training” vest on her dog and Lisa’s dog is very helpful to Lisa in many ways. However, Lisa is not a “licensed” service dog trainer, and her dog has not been trained as such. Result: Lisa may be charged with service dog fraud per PC 365.7(a).
PC 365.7 Punishment
Jail Sentence: Service dog fraud is charged as a misdemeanor. If found guilty of service dog fraud under PC 365.7, the defendant may be incarcerated for up to six months in a local county jail.
Probation Sentence: A probation sentence is a period of supervision, as opposed to a jail sentence. A probation sentence is allowed in PC 365.7(a) cases, but a probation sentence is not guaranteed. Whether the defendant receives a probation sentence after a conviction for service dog fraud depends on many factors, including the defendant’s criminal history, the level of sophistication of the defendant’s offense, and other factors.
Judicial Diversion: Judicial diversion is a legal process whereby the defendant and the court agree that the defendant may circumvent the criminal prosecution of certain crimes, including PC 365.7 crimes, if the defendant fulfills certain probation-like conditions. Judicial diversion is not a guarantee and defendants who seek judicial diversion must petition the court for this relief. For more information, see PC 1001.95 & Court Diversion.
Note: Judicial Diversion and Misdemeanor Probation Sentences are similar in that both requires the defendant to fulfills conditions; however, a judicial diversion, if successfully completed, results in no conviction, whereas a probation sentence is a prosecution that resulted in a conviction.
Court Fines: The defendant may be fined up to $1,000 for any violation of penal code 365.7. This court fine is in addition to any jail or probation sentence, any restitution ordered against the defendant, or any court security fine that is ordered against the defendant (PC 365.7).
Additional Punishment: In addition to the penalties listed above, if found guilty of PC 365.7, the defendant may face additional direct and indirect penalties, including loss of military service privileges, immigration consequences, professional licensing consequences (i.e., doctors, lawyers, therapist, teachers, etc.), civil lawsuits, and more.
PC 365.7 Defenses
Every criminal case is different; therefore, the defense to every criminal case is different. Common defenses that apply to the crime of service dog fraud include, but are not limited to, the following: insufficient evidence that the defendant knew the canine was not a legally “trained” service or guide dog, entrapment, coerced confession, illegal search and seizure, violation of Miranda Rights, jury nullification, mistake of fact, necessity, and more.
Post-Conviction Remedies: If found guilty of PC 365.7, or if the defendant pleads guilty (or “no contest”) to PC 365.7 charges, the defendant might have some of the following post-conviction options (depending on how the defendant was convicted): appeal the conviction, withdraw a plea, terminate probation early, expunge the criminal conviction, petition the court for a certificate of rehabilitation, and more.
For further information on the crime of service dog fraud (AKA Guide Dog Fraud or Signal Dog Fraud), or California penal code section 365.7 and 365.7(a), contact our criminal defense attorneys. Our Southern California team of Criminal defense lawyers have successfully helped hundreds of defendants charged with all manner of felony and misdemeanor crimes and we can help you too. There is no fee for in-office, first-visit consultations. Call today!
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