California Fraud Laws & Charges + Statute Of Limitations

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In simple terms, fraud refers to instances wherein trickery or malicious behavior is used to gain a dishonest advantage over another person. For instance, in health insurance fraud, the fraudster gets the advantage over the insurance provider, whereas in financial fraud, the individual engaged in fraud experiences a monetary advantage.

Generally speaking, people will violate the rules regarding fraud in California at any time when they decide to commit an act that will result in a benefit that is unfair or undeserved for themselves or someone related to them in a significant way. Alternatively, fraud can also be committed if you commit an act of trickery or falsehood that results in loss or harm to another person.

In most circumstances, fraudulent acts are driven by one of two motives. The first and most common motive in fraud is financial gain, whereas the second motive is to escape from some kind of criminal culpability. With that in mind, it is also worth stating that there are a substantial number of different fraudulent acts that are penalized in California, and while some are based on these motives in a clear and concise way, others are not.

Laws and Penalties

Although they are regularly referred to as white collar crimes in California, issues of fraud are a serious offense that should be regarded with care. California fraud offenses can regularly subject individuals to extremely high fines or significant sentences in prison. Often, many crimes associated with fraud will carry very specific penalties whereas other are prosecuted using the Penal Code 470 PC forgery law, and/or the Penal Code 118 PC perjury law in California. Many fraud crimes that are committed in California are known as California wobbler offenses which means that they are charged using California’s theft laws in relation to misdemeanor or felony offenses.

How people will be charged with regards to fraud will depend on their criminal history, as well as the facts present within the case. There are also some fraud offenses in California that are regarded as automatic felonies. In addition, many offenses are also suggested to be federal crimes, such as cyber fraud, and this means that accused may be prosecuted for fraud in state and federal courts, which therefore subjects the defendant to a higher penalty.

In many cases regarding fraud throughout California, the penalty will include a fine, some jail time, and the government may also choose to seize any property or money that had been involved in the fraudulent activity through a process that is authorized under the fraud offenses in California.

Fraud Defenses

In some cases, skilled attorneys can use a serious legal defense applied to fraud crimes to help lower the penalty the defendant may be expected to face. Some of the most common defenses that are used in fraud cases across California are those that center largely on the matter of intent. For instance, if it is possible to prove that the defendant in question did not have the intent to actually defraud anyone in the first place, then that person might be found not guilty of fraud. For example, in a case of credit card fraud, this defense could be used by showing the court that the defendant had no idea that the card that he or she was using was stolen, fraudulent, or belonged to someone else. In some cases, the defense might also argue that the card was even being used with the permission of the person to whom the card belonged to.

Other defenses for fraud include:

  • Proving to the court that you were in some way the victim of mistaken identity
  • Proving to the court that you deserve an acquittal based on the defense of legal entrapment. In these cases entrapment can only serve as a defense if it is possible that you can prove you only committed fraud because the police lured or forced you to commit fraud.

Statute of Limitations

In cases of fraud in California, the underlying statute of limitations suggests that a fraud lawsuit should be filed within three years of the plaintiff discovering facts regarding the fraud. However, the statute of limitations for credit card fraud specifically in California has been extended to seven years. Although, it’s worth noting that in some circumstances, that time period may also be suspended or tolled. For example, the statute of limitations might be held if a person is in prison or out of the state.

California Fraud Cases