When a person commits fraud, he intentionally deceives someone and is responsible for causing that person to suffer a loss. Fraud can include stealing from employers, failing to reveal or call attention to a mistake in a contract, telling half-truths or lies, or misrepresenting the facts.
These types of crimes can end in prison time and also have other crippling financial and social consequences, so what happens early in the investigation can be absolutely pivotal.
For these reasons, it’s important to understand a fraud charge, the possible penalties, and what strategies an attorney can use to defend you.
What Constitutes Fraud in Virginia?
To be prosecuted for “actionable fraud,” you must meet certain criteria defined by Virginia law. A prosecuting attorney must be able to show all of the following:
- False representation: The defendant misrepresented the truth.
- Present, material fact: The defendant misrepresented a present fact.
- Intent: The defendant intentionally lied for a specific reason.
- Reasonable reliance: If the defendant lied to you, but you didn’t take action in reliance on the statement, you likely won’t have a case. If you don’t believe the false statement, you can’t really claim that you were defrauded. If you do believe the false statement and rely on it in some way, your reliance must be considered reasonable.
- Damages: The plaintiff must have suffered damages caused by the false statement.
Virginia’s Fraud Penalties
The circumstances surrounding the incident in question will determine whether your alleged crime will be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. However, remember that each type of fraud comes with different penalties, ranging from minor to extremely serious. Here is a brief look at some of those penalties:
These can range from Class 1, which are the most severe, to Class 4 which are the least severe. Impersonating an officer is an example of a Class 1 misdemeanor. If the misdemeanor was committed within the proximity of children, you might be prohibited from being allowed within 100 feet from a primary or secondary school or a child care center. Fraud misdemeanors are punishable by jail time of less than a year and a small fine; however, you may face a greater degree of punishment if you have more than one fraud count against you.
Felony fraud charges carry stiff penalties and range from up to five years in prison and a $2500 fine for a Class 6 felony to a Class 1 felony which can carry the death penalty. Forging coin or bank notes or obtaining money or signature under false pretenses are both Class 4 felonies.
Possible Defenses for Fraud
If you have been accused of fraud, there are defenses that can be used to reduce the charges or get them dismissed. These include:
- The prosecution has insufficient evidence
- No intent existed; you unknowingly committed the crime
- You made an untrue statement, but it wasn’t fraudulent
- Entrapment was involved
- You corrected the situation at your first possible chance
It’s important to note that other defenses your attorney can use are specific to city, county, or state jurisdictions, so these are not the only strategies that could work for your case.
If you made a mistake and want the chance to set things right, we are prepared to advocate for consequences that may include restitution, counseling, community service, and probation. Additionally, our fraud and criminal defense attorneys have decades of experience stepping in and providing insightful legal representation for people accused of theft offenses, including fraud and embezzlement. Our knowledge and capabilities extend across the spectrum of state and federal charges.
You Need to Hire a Skilled Fraud Defense Attorney to Protect Your Rights
If you’ve been accused of fraud or other related charges, it’s important to enlist the help of a knowledgeable lawyer. A fraud defense attorney from the AV-Rated* team at Kearney, Freeman, Fogarty & Joshi can help if you are accused of stealing, misappropriating funds, or another serious crime.
Our firm headquarters is conveniently located in Fairfax, and we proudly serve the entire Northern Virginia region.We will work hard to defend your reputation and employment potential as well as your freedom. For protection of your rights, your freedom, and your record, contact us by calling our toll-free line.
*AV Preeminent and BV Distinguished are certification marks of Reed Elsevier Properties Inc., used in accordance with the Martindale-Hubbell certification procedures, standards and policies. Martindale-Hubbell is the facilitator of a peer review rating process. Ratings reflect the confidential opinions of members of the Bar and the judiciary. Martindale-Hubbell ratings fall into two categories - legal ability and general ethical standards.