Being accused of a crime can be a terrifying experience. The outcome can have an enormous impact upon you and your family. When fraud is at the heart of the accusation, it’s important to understand what it is and what the possible consequences are.
What is fraud?
Fraud, based on both Alabama law and federal law, refers to deception or misrepresentation. It means taking some action with the intent to deceive, typically to gain money or goods. However, it can also be done with the intent to avoid something, rather than gain something. Fraud can be committed against individuals, businesses, government agencies or other entities. Actually getting something is not necessary to commit fraud – it is the intentional misrepresentation which is the crux of the crime.
Common examples of fraud in Alabama include forgery, using stolen credit cards and passing checks which are known to have no value. At the federal level, fraud can include tax fraud, mail fraud and Medicare and Medicaid fraud. Sometimes, an instance of fraud can implicate both state and federal laws – filing a false tax return, for example, could be tax evasion to both Alabama and the IRS.
Potential punishment for fraud
Fraud in Alabama can be punished as either a misdemeanor or a felony. This can depend on the value of what was gained as a result of the deception, or other factors like prior criminal convictions. Misdemeanors are punished by a fine or up to a year in jail, while felonies can be punished by many years in state prison. For federal fraud violations, misdemeanors are still possible but less common. Most federal cases will be charged as felonies, with prison as the potential punishment.