What is Fraud?
The term “fraud” refers to an unlawful or criminal act of deception carried out with the intention to secure a financial or personal gain, such as money. Fraud is considered both a civil tort and a criminal wrongdoing. This means that a person who commits fraud can be sued for damages in a civil court as well as tried and sentenced by a criminal court.
Whether a fraud case ends up in civil or criminal court will depend on the party filing the action and the type of act committed.
When a private party sues an individual for damages in civil court, it is usually because the fraudulent actor either intentionally or negligently misrepresented a fact that caused the private party harm. For example, a person may sue a real estate broker for fraud if they have a fake real estate license, breach their broker agreement contract, or intentionally make a misrepresentation about their credentials, in a listing, or about a specific parcel of property.
In this scenario, if the private party can prove that the broker committed fraud, then they may recover a certain amount of monetary damages to make up for any losses that resulted from the broker’s fraudulent actions.
On the other hand, when fraud is charged as a criminal wrongdoing, it usually applies to a very specific form of fraud like credit card fraud, forgery, mail fraud, and/or identity theft. States may also enact their own criminal law statutes that instruct when an illegal act should be classified as the crime of fraud. Thus, the elements of proof and requirements for criminal fraud matters may vary based on the crime committed and by the jurisdiction hearing the case.
Unlike a civil lawsuit, a local prosecutor will be the person filing charges against the fraudulent actor. The prosecution will need to prove the relevant elements of criminal fraud beyond a reasonable doubt. If convicted, a defendant may have to pay hefty criminal fines, be put on probation, or may need to serve time in prison.
In addition, one other primary difference between civil and criminal fraud cases is that in a civil fraud lawsuit, the person who was defrauded will need to demonstrate that they suffered actual damages. In contrast, it is not necessary that a prosecutor prove actual damages resulted from a fraudulent criminal act; only that the defendant intended to and attempted to commit fraud.
What Legal Services Do Fraud Lawyers Provide?
The kinds of services that a fraud attorney may provide will depend on the type of case. For example, a plaintiff filing a civil fraud lawsuit will want to consult a civil fraud attorney or personal injury lawyer. On the other hand, if a defendant has been charged with criminal fraud and needs to appear in criminal court, then they should hire a criminal fraud attorney or criminal defense lawyer.
In general, however, both civil and criminal fraud attorneys provide basic litigation services. For instance, both can interpret and explain how the law applies to the facts of a specific client’s case, and can discuss the effects that a law may have on the outcome of that case.
They can also inform their clients about their rights under the law and apprise them of remedies they can possibly recover, or alternatively, defenses they may be able to raise against fraud charges.
In addition, fraud lawyers can draft legal documents, prepare and file necessary case documents with the court (e.g., complaint, motions, etc.), and assist clients in navigating various court procedures. They can also help their clients gather evidence, discuss case strategies, and recommend other options for legal recourse.
Both civil and fraud attorneys also have the ability to represent their clients in court, at plea deals, or during negotiations to reach a settlement. Most importantly, fraud attorneys can help their clients to make informed decisions about their cases and can answer any questions a client may have about a case or fraud law in general.
How Can a Fraud Lawyer Help Your Situation?
As previously mentioned, fraud lawyers provide myriad services to assist their clients in receiving a successful resolution to fraud matters. There are many useful benefits that stem from hiring a fraud lawyer to handle a case. For one, a fraud lawyer is already familiar with the law and can conduct in-depth research into complex areas of the law that are hard to understand without the proper training.
In having extensive experience and being able to comprehend this legal research, a fraud lawyer can advise their client on any questions or concerns they have about a case. For example, a civil fraud lawyer may tell their client that it is not worth the cost of pursuing a lawsuit because of how little they may recover in damages.
There are also particular legal requirements and procedures that the average person may not have knowledge of. These can include criminal defenses that can reduce or eliminate legal penalties, types of damages a civil plaintiff can recover, and/or how to draft specific legal documents like a complaint or brief.
Should You Hire a Fraud Lawyer for Your Case?
For all of the reasons mentioned above you should certainly consider hiring a local fraud lawyer for your case. A fraud lawyer can advise you about important legal strategies, draft and file necessary legal documents, and provide representation in court.