If you have been accused of fraud, you may be wondering what your life will look like after the case ends. The fraud stories you may have seen on the news tend to involve big banks, celebrities, or corporations that deal in shady practices. They involve massive amounts of people and money, often spanning over a number of states or even countries. When a story is big enough to make the front page, it typically involves years behind bars or massive amounts of fines.
These penalties can be daunting, but they are not applicable to every fraud case. Charges related to a one-time incident of credit card fraud are not going to be tried in the same way as the fraud charges that a corporation may face.
In order to determine what penalties you face for your specific fraud charges, you will have to look at the particular circumstances of your case. Here, we’re going to detail the various factors our state takes into account, then look at the difference between Texas state and federal charges.
The Crime Itself – Felony or Misdemeanor?
Fraud crimes range from identity theft to illegal recruitment of an athlete. Counterfeiting money and bribing someone are two different actions, and result in two different criminal charges. We have compiled a list of 22 crimes that all pertain to different situations, victims, and stolen property. All of these crimes have different penalties, ranging from minor misdemeanors to serious felonies.
If you are charged with a misdemeanor, you will face less severe penalties. Felony crimes are more serious. Felony crime penalties start at a year behind bars and are harder to remove from your criminal record. In some cases, your defense strategy can reduce your charges from a felony to a misdemeanor.
Money Taken from Victims
Some fraud charges are more serious than others, but they all become more serious based on the amount of money taken from victims. The difference of a few thousand dollars could mean additional months or even years in prison. For example, insurance fraud that involves than less $50 is a class C misdemeanor. Penalties only include a fine of up to $500. However, insurance fraud that involves $500 is bumped up to a class A misdemeanor, with penalties that may include up to a year in prison and fines of up to $1,500. Insurance fraud that involves $1,500 is bumped up to a state felony.
A judge will look at the value of all of the property involved in the crime, not just cash. For example, fraud charges in Texas include the fraudulent preparation of an academic document. Even though this charge does not involve money or property, the value of the item fraudulently created will still affect the penalties.
Age of the Victim(s)
Fraud penalties, like many criminal penalties, are also determined by whether or not the victim was a certain age. Crimes typically have harsher penalties when a minor was involved. Where fraud is concerned, however, Texas places harsher penalties on defendants who committed fraud crimes against the elderly.
Persons convicted of credit card fraud, for example, may face up to two years in state prison and fines of up to $10,000, but if the victim of the credit card fraud is an elderly person, the person may face up to 10 years in state prison.
State vs. Federal Charges
If the crime affects victims in multiple states, you may face federal criminal charges. Federal charges and state charges are held in different courts and convictions come with different penalties. (Federal penalties often have more serious penalties, but are typically committed on a larger scale than state crimes in the first place.)
In addition to multi-state crimes, if a crime involves federal agencies, like the IRS or the CIA, the crime may also be brought up in federal court. Moreover, any state case can be picked up by the federal government if they are interested in the specific crimes.
Bottom line? No matter what kind of fraud you’re charged with, the consequences are real and severe. Before you hire a Texas defense attorney to take on your case, check to make sure your lawyer not only has a track record of success dealing with your specific type of fraud charge, but also that they are experienced in tackling both federal and state charges.
About the Author:
Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU, and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth, making sure they receive the strongest possible defense when they find themselves on the wrong side of the law. He has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.