A Criminal Fraud Conviction Requires “Intent to Defraud”

criminal fraud

There are several different types of criminal fraud which include health care fraud, investment fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud securities fraud, insurance fraud, theft by false pretenses, and embezzlement.  No matter what type of criminal fraud charges a person is facing in California, the prosecution must be able to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt”, the person specifically intended to defraud.

“Intent to Defraud” Required for Criminal Fraud Conviction

Jury instructions are the law jurors are required to follow when they are determining the guilt or innocence of a defendant.  For all fraud related crimes, the prosecution must prove the defendant had a specific “intent to defraud”.   The jury instructions state:  “Someone intends to defraud if he or she intends to deceive another person either to cause a loss of money, or goods, or services, or something else of value, or to cause damage to, a legal, financial, or property right”.  The key phrase in this instruction is “intends to deceive”.  In looking at the dictionary definition of deceive, it means “to mislead or falsely persuade others”.  If a defendant acted with “specific intent” to deceive, the person must have specifically intend to commit the act in question.

The Importance of Circumstantial Evidence in Criminal Fraud Cases

Circumstantial evidence includes all actions and conversations leading up to and sometimes after the incident.    There is a great California criminal jury instruction that explains how the jury is required to handle circumstantial evidence as it relates to the defense (Calcrim 224).  This instruction states “before you may rely on circumstantial evidence to find the defendant guilty, you must be convinced that the only reasonable conclusion supported by the circumstantial evidence is that the defendant is guilty.   If you can draw two or more reasonable conclusions from the circumstantial evidence, and one of those reasonable conclusions points to innocence and another to guilt, you must accept the one that points to innocence”.  This instruction is golden for the defense because the jury MUST adopt the reasonable conclusion of the defense which points to innocence, even if the prosecution has a reasonable conclusion which points to guilt.  In this situation, the jury’s only option is to acquit the defendant.

What to Do if You Are Accused of Criminal Fraud 

Karren Kenney is an Orange County criminal attorney and Certified Fraud Specialist (CFS), who routinely handles all types of criminal fraud cases.  If you or someone you know is being charged with a fraud related crime, contact the Kenney Legal Defense Corporation at (855) 505-5588.

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