Vista Criminal Attorney is a reputable criminal defense firm in San Diego North County that believes in understanding its clients, their stakes and doing everything to protect them. The lawyers of this firm rely on their vast legal experience in California criminal law when it comes to representing their clients assertively and successfully. They can efficiently handle all kinds of cases from robbery to auto insurance fraud. There are instances where we may be able to resolve the case before going to court. Therefore, Vista Criminal Attorney can be a great solution for anyone charged with a serious crime.
What is Auto Insurance Fraud under California Law?
Under section 548 to 550 of California PC, auto insurance fraud is defined as an action, omission or incidence that the defendant intentionally commits to defraud the automobile insurance company. To understand this in a better way, below are some of the examples-
- If a woman intentionally dumps her car in the desert and reporting it stolen to collect money from the auto insurance company.
- If a man destroys his car with an intentional fire for an insurance sum.
- If a woman seeks to fake an auto repair receipt to receive an auto insurance compensation.
A person commits an auto insurance fraud if he/she: (1) hides, abandons or damages his vehicle purposely, with intention to collect insurance proceeds; (2) deliberately submits a fake insurance claim for theft, damage or destruction of the vehicle; (3) purposely presents two or even more insurance claims for one loss, with intention to defraud; (4) participates or causes an automobile accident intentionally to fraudulently collect the insurance money; and/or (5) with intent prepares or presents any oral or written statement as a part of the claim containing misleading or false information, or even claims falsely that he/she resides in California.
Furthermore, if someone assists or helps another person in committing such a fraud, then even he/she will be liable and may be charged for doing the same crime.However, California has witnessed various crimes of auto insurance fraud, hence the punishment and charges always depend on each case, its facts and the section that has been violated. This simply means that each case of auto insurance fraud differs and the punishment or penalty also differs accordingly.
Different Types of Auto Insurance Fraud
For instance,if a businessman accepts any business knowing his client’s intentions of committing auto insurance fraud, then even this is against the law. Basically, there are four scenarios of auto insurance fraud which can get a person into serious legal trouble.
- Abandoning or Damaging Vehicle under Section 548 Penal Code
Section 548 Penal Code says if a person will fully abandons,damages,disposes of or destroys any of his car parts or vehicle which is insured for damages or loss, intentionally to defraud the auto insurance company, then he/she will be charged for auto insurance fraud.
Moreover, the Court understands very well that the purpose to swindle the insurance company could be cause a financial loss to the company or even damage its legal, property, or financial rights. However, here the person also signifies a government body, business, corporation, association or some political group. On the other hand, a person can also be convicted even though the company providing insurance hasn’t suffered any economic or legal damage. The financial loss of the victim won’t make up for his offense of committing auto insurance fraud.
Steven is facing monetary problems and cannot pay his bills. He owns a Ferrari, so one night, he decides to damage his car with an objecta nd collect the car’s insurance money. The next day Steven destroys almost everything on the car and files a complaint to the Police against his girlfriend for doing this vandalism. After the investigation,it is discovered by the police that Steven has actually committed the vandalism and not his girlfriend.So in this case, Steven will be charged with committing auto insurance fraud because he destroyed his car and intentionally mislead the insurer.
What Must Be Proved For Conviction?
In order to ensure a conviction of this kind of insurance fraud, the prosecution has to establish two basic elements as follows:
- The accused has willfully destroyed, hidden or disposed-off the property which was insured against theft or any other situation except for afire accident.
- When the accused was doing above stated act(s), the accused had full knowledge of committing the fraud and had the intention to misguide the insurer
Related Punishments or Penalties -
Under Section 1170 and subdivision (h) the person accused of committing such type of auto insurance fraud may face imprisonment of two or five years and also a cash penalty will be charged but not more than 50,000 dollars.
- Fraudulent Claims under Section 550 PC
According to the California law section 550 and subdivision (a) 4, it is illegal to abet, aid conspire or solicit with someone to do any of the following acts:
- Knowingly present a fraudulent or false claim to receive payments for loss through theft, damage, destruction or renovation of a vehicle, a vehicle’s part, or any content of a motor vehicle. In order to prove someone guilty for committing auto insurance fraud, the prosecution will have to prove that the claim was fraudulent or false and the defendant knew about it. Also, that the submitted claim was done intentionally to defraud.
- If a person prepares or subscribes any writing knowingly, to use or present it, or to support any kind of fraudulent or false claim then they would also be charged for doing this crime.
- Multiple Claims under Section 550 PC
Under Californian law the section 550 and subdivision (a) 2, specifically,a person is held responsible for doing an unlawful act if the following criteria are met:
If a person who willfully and with full knowledge files for multiple claims for the same single loss or injury, such misrepresentation includes the filing of multiple claims to more than one insurer, with the intention to defraud the insurer.Hence, it is clear that the Section 550 (2) should fulfill two conditions i.e. (1) the person should have personal knowledge and intent to commit fraud (ii) the person has filed more than one claim with the different insurer.
For the prosecution to prove the case of fraud against a person the above two points are required to be established beyond doubt in the court of law.
- Deliberately Causing an Accident under Section 550 PC
Section 550 and subsection (a) 3 states the conditions under which a person is said to have committed fraud when he intentionally and knowingly becomes a participant in a vehicular accident or collides with a vehicle causing an accident. A person can be held guilty of collusion or accident with an intention to commit fraud of a false insurance claim.
In order to establish this kind of fraudulent claim, the prosecution will prove two things in the court; that the defendant participated in a willful accident or involved the vehicle in deliberate collusion. Secondly, the defendant was aware that he/she is causing such an accident or collusion to falsely claim auto insurance compensation. Thirdly, the defendant committed such an act willfully and filed for the insurance with intention of claiming insurance thus committing the fraud.
Imprisonment and Penalties
The state of California takes the matter of fraudulently claimed auto insurance very seriously. That is why the penalties after conviction under auto insurance fraud claims are severe. It may be added here that in most cases the prosecutor can charge and insist that the case be put under trial for either misdemeanor or felony. In order to determine the seriousness of the charge, the criminal history of the accused is also considered before pressing for a specific charge.
If the accused is charged with a misdemeanor then the penalty may include informal probation and a maximum fine to the extent of $50,000 or an amount two times of the claimed fraud amount. The court will order the amount which is higher of the two penalties.
For the felony charges, the court may order formal probation which may be up to five (5) years of imprisonment including a fine up to $50,000 or two times of the fraudulently claimed insurance amount, whichever is higher.
Common Legal Defenses for Auto Insurance Fraud
Fraud of auto insurance claim is a serious matter and it is perhaps one of the crimes which have higher and severe penalties in California. Unfortunately, if someone has been accused of committing an auto insurance fraud then he should not hesitate to contact any legal office and discuss his rights and defenses including but not limited to what to expect from the California legal system under such circumstances.The law firm then may offer services for preparing a defense against an individual who is indicted under insurance fraud.
The offense of committing an insurance fraud under California laws can be charged with misdemeanor or charge of a felony but either of the charges depends on the conduct and past history of the defendant. In California, the prosecution has the option to charge a person both with misdemeanor and felony, this system is often called ‘wobbler’. If a person is charged under this system then the offense is going to reflect on the accused criminal records. This means in real life, if someone is looking fora job then a future employer might look into the offense registered and see their name having a felony and misdemeanor on their record.It is very unlikely that he/she will get the job if they are competing with others with the same qualifications but no criminal record. Therefore, it is pertinent to immediately look for a defense attorney if you are charged with a false insurance claim under California law. A qualified attorney may be able to help greatly improve your chances by preparing a solid defense and contest the charges made against the alleged crime. The following are some suitable defenses they may help you reduce your charges or penalties:
- Mistaken Identity: Sometimes a situation arises where the identity of the person charged is stolen enabling the person committing the fraud to get away with the crime.Such circumstances may be possible due to the online presence of the defendant, his social media contents, etc. Since the advent of the internet age, these types of incidences have become more viable. Therefore,we understand how much more common online fraud has become and the defendant could actually be the victim. It is also possible that a digital investigation by the police has mistakenly led the police to your door. If you are charged under mistaken identity then your attorney will try to prove that you have a physical or a digital alibi all through the duration in which the fraud took place.
- Lack of Criminal Intent: It is common sense that in order to commit fraud a person should have the intention to do the same. Sufficient evidence must indicate that the defendant has willfully and with personal/previous knowledge defrauded the insurance company to obtain the insurance money. Auto Insurance Fraud does not happen just by accident or randomly. It can happen only if someone has done a purposeful preparation. There also can be a possibility where the defendant got stuck in a situation without meaning to actually commit auto insurance fraud. This is one of the strongest defenses since a viable doubt isn’t enough to send someone to jail. For information on defenses in your auto insurance fraud case, contacting an experienced lawyer can help in a tremendous way.
- A Case of Misunderstanding: It is often seen that charges of insurance fraud come due to mistakes and/or misunderstandings. The insurance company might feel that the defendant has taken the insurance money wrongfully but in reality,he had no real knowledge of some important information when alleged the fraud was said to be committed. Based on factual situations an attorney will clear such doubts or confusions and get his charges dropped. If such help is not possible then the lawyer will explain all circumstances to the court in which he acted in mistake without any intention to commit fraud.
- Non-Fraudulent Statement:Any statement given by the defendant in good faith cannot be considered fraudulent. In order to establish the statement of the defendant as a fraudulent statement,it needs to correlate with the present facts and not just an expression to do an act in the future. Also just expressing an opinion by the defendant cannot be a fraudulent statement at all. Therefore, a non-fraudulent statement can also be a good defense.
- Insufficient Evidence: A defense attorney sometimes may not recommend a defense and instead invest his time and efforts towards establishing that the prosecutor doesn’t have a good case. In order to convict the defendant, the prosecutor should prove that the actions of defendant address all the necessary elements listed in a particular legal clause. If such a situation arises during the preparation of the defense then the lawyer will obviously point out the weak evidence, discredit the charges of prosecution and strive towards a dismissal of the charges brought against the defendant.
- There Must be Consent to Commit a Crime: There can be no case of committing fraud if the alleged insurer readily showed the consent for the claim and waived off its right to challenge. If the defendant proves in court that he has the authority to do a particular act which is being challenged as fraud then this cannot be marked as a fraud case.
- Entrapment:Sometimes an innocent person suffers when law enforcement creates a situation wherein a person is compelled to commit a crime; which he/she may not have done the act in their ordinary daily living. But a word of caution here is that just providing an opportunity to commit fraud cannot be classified as an entrapment. Remember,it is advisable to get advice from an attorney because countering an entrapment defense means the prosecution will say that the defendant wanted to commit the fraud anyway.
How to Get a Vista Criminal Attorney Specializing In Auto Insurance Fraud Cases Near Me?
Vista Criminal Attorney Law Firm can use their various defenses and strategies to get the best possible outcome. If you have not committed the alleged auto insurance fraud, we will ensure that the prosecution fails to prove that you never intended to commit auto insurance fraud and the court may drop the charges against you. It may be noted that auto insurance fraud claims are one of the most difficult cases to defend since they rely upon the circumstantial and corroborative shreds of evidence. As your defense attorneys, we will strive hard to prove that there is no case against you and the pieces of evidence are poor. If the situation demands, we will also help you to plea a bargain offer fora less severe charge and lower penalty. Reach us at 760-691-1551 and we will happily provide a consultation and advice on your auto insurance fraud case. Keep in mind, getting arrested doesn’t mean that you have committed any crime. Contact our Vista criminal defense attorney today!