California law makes it a crime to obtain something of value from another individual by using misrepresentation or a false pretense. The crime of fraud includes a range of schemes, including insurance fraud as well as other white collar crimes. If convicted, the accused may face misdemeanor or felony charges which can lead to imprisonment and heavy fines. At the Law Offices of Gregory H. Comings, we understand the emotional distress caused by criminal charges, and the impact upon your reputation and career. As a Riverside white collar crime lawyer, Gregory H. Comings helps people by providing an aggressive defense in order to achieve a favorable resolution of your criminal charges.Insurance Fraud in California
Elements of the crime of insurance fraud include an intent to defraud, and a completed act. The law does not require that there was actual loss, or that the victim lost money. In fact, the act to defraud may have been unsuccessful. However, the act must be more than making a false statement, or planning to commit fraud.
As a specific intent crime, insurance fraud requires the prosecutor set forth evidence that the defendant knowingly committed the act. A knowing misrepresentation of the truth is an essential element of the crime; the fraud cannot be accidental. The burden of proof is upon the prosecution to show that the purpose of the act was to defraud an insurer.
State or federal prosecutors may file criminal charges for insurance fraud. The State of California codifies insurance fraud, including unemployment insurance fraud and medical fraud. Relevant statutes that may be relied upon by prosecutors charging insurance fraud include California Penal Code sections 548 to 551. Federal prosecutors may rely on broad statues in order to file charges for insurance fraud. A federal law prohibiting mail fraud may be relied upon, or the federal wire fraud statute. In many cases, California law will cover allegations of insurance fraud.
A common fraud scheme includes auto insurance. Automobile insurance fraud occurs when illegal techniques are used in order to obtain money. A repair shop may report a vehicle lost or damaged, or charge excessive costs when compared to original estimates. California law makes it a crime to damage, destroy, hide, or abandon a motor vehicle with the purpose of making a fraudulent claim.
Convictions for insurance fraud can result in large fines and lengthy prison sentences. Additionally, defendants may be required to pay the victim restitution for damages incurred. When the accused has a prior conviction for fraud, there may be an enhancement for each prior conviction.Common Legal Defenses to Insurance Fraud Charges
One of the strongest legal defenses to allegations or charges of insurance fraud is that the prosecution did not meet their burden of proving elements of the crime. Fraud requires proof of intent and a completed act. If the defendant lacks the requisite intent, then the charge cannot stand. However, since intent alone is not enough for the charge to stand, the prosecution has the burden of showing that the defendant committed an act furthering the fraud.
Mistake of fact is a legal defense that may apply to reduce or dismiss insurance fraud criminal charges. This defense requires a showing by the defendant that they did not understand a fact, such as the fact that they were not entitled to a payment. The defendant must have reasonably and honestly believed in this mistake. An experienced attorney will be able to assess appropriate legal defenses in your case.Discuss Your Options With a Lawyer in Riverside
Insurance fraud may be charged as a felony, and can lead to long prison sentences and significant penalties. If you or someone close to you is facing criminal charges for insurance fraud, or another type of crime such as bribery or extortion, Attorney Gregory H. Comings can assist. Mr. Comings understands the stress and financial strain carried by a potential criminal conviction. To speak with us, call our office by calling (951) 686-3457 or through our online form. We are proud to serve residents of Riverside, Moreno Valley, Rancho Cucamonga, Moreno Valley, Highland, Palm Springs, and Victorville.