Berkeley Fraud Defense Lawyer
Accusations of committing a fraudulent offense carry not only hefty penalties but impact your reputation and standing in the community. For these reasons, you must approach every interaction with authorities carefully and vigorously fight for the best outcome.
A Berkeley fraud lawyer could help you at every stage of the process. From the time you first become aware that you are the target of an investigation, through trial if that becomes necessary, a skilled defense attorney could be an essential ally in your fight against fraud charges.
Types of Fraud Charges in Berkeley
The California Penal Code does not contain just one code section for the crime of fraud. Rather, authorities charge individuals under the sections that correspond with specific activities. However, all fraud charges stem from a theft accomplished by tricking, deceiving, or otherwise manipulating the rightful owner or custodian of the property out of what is rightfully theirs.
Fraud often involves fakery or the creation of false documentation, such as forgery, which is illegal under Cal. Penal Code § 470, or credit card theft, is punishable under Cal. Penal Code §§ 484e through 484j. Other common forms of fraud involve dishonesty in the following transactions:
- Insurance claims (health, auto, etc.)
- Tax reporting
- Loan applications
- Falsifying checks and other banking transactions
- Worker’s Compensation
- Receipt of welfare and other government benefits
Defending against these charges can be overwhelming. It may be in the best interest of those under suspicion in Berkeley to consult with an experienced fraud attorney sooner than later.
Penalties for Fraudulent Activity
In the California penal system, these crimes are either misdemeanors or felonies. No matter the level, a conviction can severely impact a person’s freedom, financial stability, and personal relationships, not to mention their reputation.
Identifying the Level of the Offense
Some statutory sections explicitly state the offense level. Other sections allow the prosecutor the discretion to select whether the accused will face misdemeanor or felony charges based on the facts of the case. These are called “wobbler offenses.”
In wobbler cases, the prosecutor’s decision of what level to charge the accused may not be final. Cal. Penal Code § 17 allows judges to downgrade a crime to a misdemeanor at various points in the proceedings, such as at sentencing, when ordering probation, or upon the defendant’s requests after completing his or her sentence.
Unless the applicable code section explicitly states the appropriate punishment, Cal. Penal Code § 18 outlines the penalties for felony offenses, including imprisonment, fines, and restitution (paying back what’s owed). Similarly, Section 19 identifies misdemeanor punishments as up to six months in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000, unless otherwise stated by the charging code section.
Additional Consequences of a Fraud Conviction
Regardless of the severity of an individual’s sentence, a fraud conviction may negatively impact a person’s daily life and future opportunities. A criminal record can interfere with securing employment, loans, and housing. Additionally, it may complicate child custody cases, immigration status matters, and eliminate a person’s right to own a firearm.
By working with a Berkeley attorney familiar with fraud cases, those accused may develop a comprehensive defense strategy that addresses all these concerns and more.
What are Other Crimes Associated with Fraud Charges?
Given the duplicity involved in fraud crimes, suspects often face related criminal charges for the same activity. For example, when receiving public assistance, people must certify that the information they provide on applications and other legal documents is accurate. If they knowingly misrepresent the data to secure benefits, they might also face perjury charges under Cal. Penal Code § 118. In other words, lying under oath. Similarly, if the illegal activity involves duping or stealing from an older or dependent person, the defendant may have also committed elder abuse, which is a criminal act under Cal. Penal Code § 368.
Local criminal attorneys may assist defendants effectively by responding to not only the fraud charges but any other criminal counts contained in the complaint. The complaint is the document the court uses to read the pending charges to the accused.
Schedule a Consultation with a Berkeley Fraud Attorney
Being accused of fraudulent behavior can be extremely stressful and overwhelming. Fortunately, working with a seasoned Berkeley fraud lawyer may ease your mind and put you in the best position to protect your future. Please do not wait any longer. Reach out to set up your initial consultation, and let us help you.