Fraud is a serious and complex crime in Florida. This is because “fraud” is a broad term used to describe activities ranging from intentionally writing a bad check all the way to operating a million-dollar Ponzi scheme. Even though these types of crimes are non-violent, the penalties can be just as harsh as if you were convicted of murder or rape.
If you have been charged with defrauding someone, a Ft. Lauderdale fraud lawyer could help you navigate the complexities of the legal system and thoroughly investigate your case to build a strong defense or negotiate to have your penalties reduced. To learn more or get started on your defense, call an experienced defense attorney today.
Types of Criminal Fraud in Ft. Lauderdale
In Florida, fraud is an act of intentional deception for the purpose of financial gain; obtaining property, items, or information; depriving another person of their legal rights; or receiving any other benefits and privileges. Fraud is usually referred to as a “white-collar crime” because it is common in business and government settings. Some common examples of fraud that a Ft. Lauderdale attorney may be able to assist with include:
- Bankruptcy fraud
- Identity theft
- Insurance fraud
- Credit card fraud
- Bank fraud
- Internet fraud
- Tax fraud
See all of the activities that are considered frauds in Chapter 817 of The Florida Statutes.
Penalties for Fraudulent Practices in Ft. Lauderdale
The penalties you could be facing for criminal fraud offenses vary widely depending on a number of factors, including:
- The type of fraud (credit card, check, insurance, etc.)
- The value of the money, property, or goods involved
- The level of your involvement
- The number of people affected by the fraud
- Certain minimum sentencing laws
For example, committing identity theft is typically considered a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. However, if the identities of 10 to 20 people were stolen or if the value gained from the crime was more than $5,000, the identify theft could be increased to a second-degree felony charge.
This level of identity fraud also carries a mandatory minimum prison sentence of three years. In fact, as the value gained from the crime and the number of people affected increases, so do the mandatory minimum prison sentences (see The 2016 Florida Statutes 817.568).
All fraud-related crimes are different, so it is best to speak with a trusted Ft. Lauderdale attorney to find out the potential penalties you could be facing in your specific case.
Collateral Consequences of a Fraud Charge
It is important to note that you could be charged twice for the same fraudulent activity. Many people are unaware that some fraud-related crimes can be charged at both the state and federal levels and that double jeopardy does not apply in these instances. Since federal charges are completely different than charges at the state level, you could potentially be facing even bigger penalties. Besides prison time and fines, a person charged with fraud could also be facing consequences like:
- Civil penalties (restitution and heavy fines)
- The inability to receive government aid
- Limited employment and educational opportunities
- Loss of the right to vote
- Loss of the right to own or use a firearm
What are the Potential Defenses to a Fraud Charge?
Preparing a defense to a fraud charge can be challenging. Both state and federal governments take these accusations extremely seriously and therefore spend a lot of time preparing a case against the Defendant by reviewing various financial documents as well as other pieces of evidence. This is why it is important to find an attorney in Ft. Lauderdale who could build a strong and effective defense in your fraud case. One of the most common strategies that defense attorneys use in these cases is arguing that there was a lack of intent to defraud. To receive a conviction, a Prosecutor must prove through undeniable evidence that the Defendant intentionally took actions to either defraud a person or the state. In some situations, a Defendant could have genuinely made a mistake that caused the Plaintiff to lose property or money. In this case, the Defendant cannot be convicted because they did intentionally use deception to commit a financial crime.
Additionally, in many cases, multiple charges could be found. Because only one conviction can be imposed, an attorney could try to argue for lesser penalties associated with a crime of theft rather than fraud.
Contact a Ft. Lauderdale Fraud Attorney Today
Fraud cases are often complex and detail-oriented, which can make the legal process time-consuming and overwhelming. Fortunately, you do not have to face criminal fraud charges alone.
A knowledgeable Ft. Lauderdale fraud lawyer could help you make important decisions and untangle the complicated legal process. Contact us today to find out how we can help you overcome your fraud charges.