How Are Fraud Crimes Handled?
Simply because of a mistake or a misunderstanding, you could find yourself accused of fraud. If you are charged with a fraud crime in Southern California, contact a fraud attorney in Orange County immediately for the legal advice and defense representation that you will need.
How is fraud defined by California law, and what are your rights if you are arrested and charged with fraud by either state or federal authorities? How will a fraud lawyer represent and defend you?
If you will keep reading this brief discussion of fraud, the law, and your rights, these questions will be answered, but if you are personally facing a fraud charge, you also need to contact and discuss your case with a California fraud attorney as quickly as possible.
What Constitutes Criminal Fraud?
Fraud is a crime that happens when one person illegally deceives another person to acquire money, property, or some other personal benefit.
State and federal laws define and prohibit various types of fraud, including:
- check and credit card fraud
- real estate and foreclosure fraud
- insurance and healthcare fraud
- tax fraud, mail fraud, bank fraud, investment and securities fraud, and wire fraud
- unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation fraud
- welfare fraud
What Charges Can You Face if You Are Suspected of Fraud?
While some types of fraud are addressed by specific California statutes, most crimes of fraud in this state are prosecuted as either grand thefts (that is, as felonies) or as petty thefts (which are usually considered misdemeanors).
Other fraud crimes are “wobblers,” which means that they may be charged as either felonies or as misdemeanors at the prosecutor’s discretion. However, a second or subsequent offense for petty theft in California will be charged as a felony.
The specific charge that a fraud defendant faces, as well as the potential penalties for a conviction on that charge, will depend on the details of the charge, the amount of money or property involved, and the defendant’s previous criminal record.
What are the Penalties for Fraud Convictions?
In California, a felony conviction for fraud can send you to prison. If the fraud involved $500,000 or more, up to five more years can be added to the standard sentence.
Even a misdemeanor conviction for fraud in California can put you in jail for as long as a year. However, a number of fraud crimes are federal offenses, and convictions on federal fraud charges entail even harsher penalties.
In many fraud cases, the court will order a convicted offender to pay restitution to the victim or victims. Convicted fraud offenders may also face lawsuits filed by victims in civil court to recover damages.
What Are the Other Consequences of a Fraud Conviction?
A fraud conviction creates a criminal record that may make it difficult for you to find employment or housing or qualify for a loan. Convicted fraud offenders may never be able to work in the banking, securities, or insurance industries.
Because fraud is considered a crime of moral turpitude, if you are not a citizen of the United States, a fraud conviction may trigger a removal proceeding. If you hold a professional license in California, a fraud conviction may prompt the revocation or suspension of that license.
If you are divorced or divorcing, a fraud conviction could have a negative impact on your child custody rights, and if you are convicted on a felony fraud charge, you will lose your right to purchase or possess a firearm.
How Will a Fraud Attorney Defend You?
In Southern California, if you are under investigation for fraud, an Orange County fraud attorney can “get ahead” of the case by negotiating with prosecutors and protecting you from self-incrimination.
If you are charged with fraud – or indicted by a grand jury – your lawyer may ask the prosecutor to drop the charge or may file a motion with the court to have the charge dismissed. If your case proceeds, your lawyer will develop a strategy which may include one or more of these defenses:
- No fraud took place and the allegation against you has been fabricated.
- No fraud took place and the allegation was based on a mistake or a misunderstanding.
- Another person committed the fraud and you have been misidentified.
- You had no criminal intent to defraud anyone.
- There is not enough evidence to convict you of fraud.
Your defense lawyer will scrutinize the evidence against you, speak with the witnesses, and protect your rights. If your case goes to trial, your attorney will cast doubt on the government’s case and seek to bring your trial to its best possible conclusion.
How Long Do Authorities Have to Bring a Fraud Charge?
This discussion began with the question, “What is the statute of limitations for fraud?” Generally speaking, California’s statute of limitations for fraud offenses – that is, the amount of time a prosecutor has to file a fraud charge against you – is three years.
The federal statute of limitations for fraud crimes is seven years, unless the fraud involved a bank, in which case the federal statute of limitations is ten years. However, at both the federal and state levels, these are general statutes and deadlines with a number of exceptions. Ask your attorney if any of these exceptions apply in your own fraud case.
It is also important to understand how the “discovery rule” affects a statute of limitations. Because of the discovery rule, the statute of limitations “clock” does not start when the fraud occurs. Rather, it begins when a fraud victim realizes that he or she has been defrauded.
How Can You Choose the Right Fraud Attorney?
Fraud is aggressively prosecuted in this state, and if you are charged with fraud, you must be aggressively defended by a knowledgeable, skilled, and experienced California attorney.
With more than a quarter-century of defense experience, Orange County criminal defense lawyer Diane C. Bass has advised and successfully defended clients charged with white-collar crimes – including fraud, money laundering, and criminal conspiracy – in both state and federal courts.
Attorney Diane C. Bass is a well-prepared, savvy, and determinedly committed criminal defense lawyer who produces the best possible results for her clients in Orange County and across Southern California.
If you have been charged with fraud, or if you are charged with fraud in the future, you need to contact an attorney at once. Attorney Diane Bass will evaluate your case with no cost or obligation. You can reach the Irvine law offices of attorney Diane C. Bass at 949-577-8368.