Fraud Charges in Michigan
Fraud is committed by falsely representing facts in an effort to gain something. This can include a wide variety of related crimes which may be misdemeanor or felony charges. Anyone accused of committing fraud will want to speak with a lawyer quickly to learn more about the defenses available to them. It is imperative they have help defending against these charges. A few of the different types of fraud charges in Michigan include the following.
Signature by Fraud
It is illegal to obtain a signature with the intention of defrauding a person. This happens if someone is coerced into signing something, if the paperwork changes after they have signed it, or if the signature is obtained after providing the person with false information. If someone else possesses or attempts to use a document with a known fraudulent signature, they could face the same penalties as the person who obtain the signature.
Credit Card Theft or Fraud
It is illegal to possess, sell, purchase or use a credit card belonging to another person. The only exception to this is the use of a credit card with prior authorization. If someone is found to have stolen a credit card or the credit card number or they have fraudulently obtained the card, they may face up to four years in prison and fines of up to $5,000 as this is a felony charge. This charge also includes debit cards, gift cards, bank account numbers, PINs, and other ways to obtain or spend money that belongs to someone else.
It is legal to sell items that look like designer items, so long as the goal is not to defraud the buyer and convince them that the item is genuine. If an item looks like a designer item and is sold as if it were the designer item, it is counterfeit and the manufacturing, possession, and sale of the item is illegal. Counterfeiting also applies to money, checks, passports, and official records, not just to products that can be purchased.
A false document created with the intention of deceiving another party is considered a forgery. This can include any type of official or public document and can include any type of creation or alteration from the original. This includes wills, promissory notes, documents signed and notarized, insurance policies, and more. This is a felony crime and those who are convicted of creating a forged document are at risk of up to 14 years in prison.
Writing False Checks
Check fraud can include any use of checks that are forged or counterfeit. It can also include writing a check knowing there are insufficient funds to cover the check in the bank account. It can also include signing someone else’s name on the check in an attempt to cash it as well as attempting to fraudulently cash a paycheck that belongs to someone else. Though checks aren’t as common as they were in previous years, they are still used and fraudulent transactions do still occur.
Wire fraud is the attempt to gain personal information to fraudulently use credit cards or transfer the funds from one bank account to another. This often is done through phishing, hacking, or other scams. Today, internet scams are common and this type of charge may be a federal charge if it occurs over state lines. If both the accused and the victim live within the same state, however, it could be a state crime, instead. The charges are based on each call, email, or another method of scamming.
Computer and Internet Fraud
Computer and internet fraud include any types of fraud where a computer and the internet are used. This can include hacking, deleting records, accessing personal information, or using computers to obtain something valuable. Computer and internet fraud can include wire fraud, identity theft, employment fraud, and other types of fraud, so the penalties someone who is accused of this will face can vary depending on the type and severity of the fraud.
A federal crime, loan fraud includes making inaccurate or false statements to banks with the intention of obtaining a loan. This can include mortgages, credit card applications, personal loans, and a variety of other types of loans. While many people may attempt to stretch the truth when filling out these applications, doing so opens them up to potential loan fraud charges. Since this is a federal crime, it can be more difficult to defend against and the penalties may be more severe than a similar state crime.
A variety of situations will fall under insurance fraud. Attempting to obtain insurance without reporting an existing condition or misreporting an injury to obtain insurance benefits are both examples of insurance fraud. This also includes destroying property with the intent to collect on the insurance, doctors billing patients for treatment they did not receive, as well as falsely reporting a stolen vehicle, staging an accident, or collecting insurance for damages that existed before the accident occurred.
Embezzlement occurs when someone misuses property that was put under their control by another individual or a business. Most embezzlement charges stem from the theft of money from an employer and the amount stolen can quickly add up to higher charges. Less than $1,000 of money or value in products stolen is a misdemeanor charge and anything over $1,000 is a felony. Potential penalties range from up to 90 days in jail to up to 20 years in prison depending on the amount or value taken. Sentences can increase if the embezzlement involved funds or products that belonged to a charity.
Every year, many teenagers will possess a fake ID with the intent to enter into an age-restricted facility or to purchase age-restricted items. Despite this being commonly done, it is a crime. Simply possessing a fake ID is generally a misdemeanor Fake identifications can also be used for identity theft, in the process of committing another crime, or in other situations. Depending on the intentions behind the possession or sale of a fake ID, the charges could be a felony and punishable by more than a year in jail.
Using someone else’s identity for almost any reason can be a crime in Michigan. Identity theft can include sending emails that appear to be from a business but are not, possessing the identifying documents for someone else with the intent to use them during the commission of a crime, or selling personally-identifying information knowing the buyer will use it during the commission of a crime.
Fraud covers a wide range of crimes and most of them can lead to serious sentences, including significant fines and lengthy jail terms. Many are also a felony, so the accused will have a criminal record that can impact their future and lead to a loss of some of their basic rights. If you’ve been accused of fraud in any form, however, some defenses can be used to help you get a better outcome for the case. Contact a lawyer today to get more information about the charges you’re facing and what can be done to protect you from the severe penalties that can occur if you’re convicted.
FAQs for Fraud Defense
Arrests for fraud charges are relatively common due to the number of crimes that are considered fraud. Once someone is arrested and charged with fraud, they need to start working with a lawyer on their defense. Before speaking with the lawyer at a consultation, it’s likely the accused will have many questions. The answers to some of these are below.
Should I Speak With Anyone About the Case?
A lawyer should be the only person you speak with about the case. It is okay to let family members or friends know that there is a case, but it’s not a good idea to provide them with details or inadvertently admit to the crime. It may be necessary to tell your job that you’re facing criminal charges and will need time off work to handle the case but, again, they do not need to know the details.
Should I Answer Questions the Police Ask?
No. It is never a good idea to speak with the police. Anything said to the police can be used against you in court. If you accidentally say something incriminating, it can be used to secure your conviction. Instead, politely decline to answer any questions and request legal representation. A lawyer can help you answer questions while avoiding self-incrimination.
Will it Hurt My Case if I Refuse to Answer Questions?
No. When someone is arrested, they have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. It is advisable for anyone who is arrested to uphold these rights by refusing to answer questions and requesting a lawyer during any questioning.
What are the Potential Sentences I’m Facing?
This can vary based on the type of fraud, the severity, and other details of the case. Some types of fraud are misdemeanors, while others are felony charges. Felony charges include longer sentences as well as higher fines after a conviction. A lawyer can review the charges you’re facing and let you know what the potential sentence will be if you’re convicted.
What If I’m Falsely Accused of Fraud?
False accusations do occur. If this occurs, hiring a lawyer is the only way to try to avoid a conviction. It is possible for someone who is falsely accused of fraud to be convicted if they do not have legal representation throughout the case. However, a lawyer can help defend against the charges, showing it was a false accusation, to help minimize the potential for a conviction.
What if I had No Intent to Defraud Someone?
Intent is not always required to prove fraud, but it is necessary for most situations. If there was no intent to defraud, it is possible to have the charges dismissed. As with a false accusation, hiring a lawyer to defend against the charges is a must. They can help show that there was no intent to defraud and, therefore, the prosecution cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you’re guilty of fraud.
What If I Acted in Good Faith?
Acting in good faith is a defense against fraud, but the exact outcome of the case will depend on the specific situation. Discuss the case with a lawyer to learn more about how to show the fraud was done while acting in good faith and to see if there is a possibility of the charges being dismissed or being found not guilty in court.
What If the Fraud Happened Under Duress?
Duress is another defense against fraud, but it can be difficult to prove. Duress cannot be just someone telling you to commit fraud. It has to be a situation where you or a loved one are credibly threatened if the fraud is not done. It is crucial to have a lawyer to use the defense of duress, as they can help review the situation and determine if this is a valid defense for the case.
If I Have No Criminal History, Can it Help my Case?
Not having a criminal history can help the case, as well as help minimize the potential sentences if you’re found guilty. Judges will often look at the accused’s criminal background to determine if they are a repeat offender and may require a more harsh sentence or if this is the accused’s first time in trouble with the law. If you do not have a criminal history, a judge may be willing to reduce the sentence you’re facing under the assumption you will stay out of trouble in the future.
Should I Plead Guilty or Accept a Plea Bargain?
Not without speaking with a lawyer. Pleading guilty will mean you now have a misdemeanor or felony on your criminal record, which can impact your basic rights, your ability to get a job, your opportunity for student loans, and a lot more. Accepting a plea bargain may mean you receive a reduced sentence, but you will still have a criminal record with the same issues. It may seem like a good idea to accept a plea bargain to bring a felony charge down to a misdemeanor, but this isn’t always the case.
Speaking with a lawyer gives you the chance to find out if it’s possible to have the charges dismissed completely or to receive a not guilty verdict. By pleading guilty or accepting a plea bargain, dismissal or a not guilty verdict are no longer available options and you will end up with a criminal record. Let the lawyer review the case to determine whether it’s better to plead guilty, accept a plea bargain, or defend against the charges for a better outcome.
Can I Defend Against the Charges On My Own?
Pro se is when the accused defends themselves in court. For this to be possible, it has to be approved by a judge. While this can happen, it is never recommended. You are likely less familiar with the law than you may realize and the law can be far more complex than it appears. Those who do defend themselves often regret the decision because they find out just how much they don’t know once they’re in trial.
For instance, while it’s possible to read and understand the law, there may be case law that can have an impact on your case and that you will not be able to access, if you’re aware it exists. Most people don’t realize that there’s a lot more to a case than just reading and applying the specific laws relating to the charges. A lawyer has the experience to know when it’s possible to defend against charges, what defenses to use, and how to work hard to get a much better outcome for the case.
What Happens Once I Hire a Lawyer for Help?
Once you hire a lawyer, they’ll review all of the specifics for your case and discuss what happened with you. From there, they can answer any questions you may have about the charges you’re facing or let you know about the potential outcomes for the case. They can also provide a recommendation for how to plead, let you know if a plea deal is a good option, and help you determine if there are any defenses to the charges that are likely to be successful in court.
Though these may answer a lot of the questions you have after an arrest for fraud, it is likely you still have questions that are specific to your case. Be sure to write down all of those questions and bring them with you to a consultation with a lawyer. This way, you can get the answers you need and feel more confident that you know how to move forward with the lawyer to defend against the charges. Contact a lawyer now to set up a consultation and get more information and help for your situation.