Being accused of fraud can affect your reputation for years to come. Many people with past fraud charges are discriminated against in their careers, especially when seeking white collar jobs which require a person to handle money or be in a position of trust. Fraudulent charges may make it difficult to apply for a credit card, loan, or mortgage, and felony fraud convictions can result in a lifetime of obstacles.
For those reasons, it is important to defend yourself vigorously from any accusations of fraud. One of the most successful ways to beat a fraud charge is to prove that you lacked the intent to commit the crime. When this defense works, the person accused could be acquitted of the charges.
What Is Fraud?
In California, fraud is a criminal charge that covers a wide variety of areas. In general, a person commits fraud when he or she intends to deceive another person by concealing a material fact, which caused a loss of money, goods, rights, or services.
There are many types of fraud charges, depending on the area where the alleged crime occurred. For example, a person can be accused of credit card fraud, check fraud, health insurance fraud (including private insurance, Medicare/Medicaid, or Medi-Cal fraud), welfare fraud, workers' compensation fraud, real estate and mortgage fraud, identity theft and forgery, and fraud against the elderly.
In order to prove fraud, a prosecutor must show that the accused committed each element of the crime. While these elements change depending on the type of fraud, there is one consistent defense: intent.
Fraud is an intentional crime, which means that a prosecutor must show that the accused meant to deceive or trick another person about a material fact for his or her own benefit. Without proof that the crime was intentional, the charges cannot stand.
For example, suppose a house is unsafe because of problems in the foundation. If a real estate agent convinced a buyer to purchase the house, the agent could be charged with fraud if he or she purposely concealed the condition of the house from the purchasers. If, however, the real estate agent did not know about the house's condition, and had no way of finding out about it, the agent would not have committed fraud because there was no intent to mislead or deceive the buyers.
Often, intent is proven through circumstantial evidence. When relying on circumstantial evidence, a jury can only find a defendant guilty if there is no reasonable conclusion which points to innocence. The jury will be asked to examine the events and actions leading up to and after the alleged incident, and must decide whether there is a reasonable, non-criminal explanation for the person's actions. If there is, the jury must acquit.
Defending Fraud Claims
Because intent is necessary in proving a fraud case, it is important that people accused of fraud do not unintentionally incriminate themselves through statements to the police or in court. Many seemingly innocent actions or statements can be twisted to show a criminal intent to deceive.
For that reason, it is imperative that people accused of fraud speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. At the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, our attorneys will review your fraud charges and determine your best line of defense.
For more information about defending accusations of fraud or other criminal charges, visit www.orangecountycriminallaw.com. To set up a free initial consultation with one of our defense attorneys, call 866.902.6880 today.