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What’s the Difference Between Civil Fraud & Criminal Fraud?

Posted in Criminal Defense on June 19, 2019

Most people do not realize there is a difference between civil fraud and criminal fraud, until they end up on the wrong side of an investigation. Fraud is an umbrella term that can refer to many different things. In the eyes of California law, however, its definition becomes much more specific. Begin your deeper understanding of fraud by learning the difference between its civil and criminal versions.

Fraud vs. Theft

Fraud is not the same crime as theft. While both may involve stealing, fraud and theft are two separate crimes in California. Theft can refer to both stealing through fraud and other means, such as by force during a robbery or burglary. Fraud, on the other hand, specifically refers to theft by committing fraud. Fraud under California law is an intentional misrepresentation, trick, or deceit. Fraud can refer to stealing by concealing a material fact or otherwise deceiving the victim into losing or forfeiting the rights to personal property or legal rights.

What Is Criminal Fraud?

A criminal fraud case is a charge the prosecution brings against a defendant for an alleged fraud crime. Criminal fraud in California is the act of intentionally misrepresenting or concealing material facts with the intent to deprive the victim of something or otherwise cause an injury. If police suspect someone of criminal fraud, they may place the person under arrest and submit their recommended charges to the city. The prosecution will then decide whether to proceed with the case or drop the charges.

During a criminal fraud trial, the goal of the prosecutor will be to prove the defendant guilty of fraud beyond a reasonable doubt. This is the burden of proof for criminal cases. The prosecution will need to use evidence and witness testimony to prove to a judge or jury that the individual did in fact commit criminal fraud. The defendant and his or her attorney will come up with a defense strategy to try to poke holes in the prosecution’s case. Hiring a local fraud lawyer is a critical way to protect one’s rights during a criminal fraud case.

What Is Civil Fraud?

Civil fraud does not refer to a different crime, but rather to a different legal process. Rather than prosecuting the defendant with the goal of a sentence and punishment, a civil case aims to reimburse the victim of fraud for his or her losses. It is the victim of fraud that will bring a civil case, not the city. The victim will file a civil fraud claim against the defendant, along with a list of damages the victim is seeking. This list can include various economic and non-economic losses.

  • Out-of-pocket expenses
  • Financial loss from the fraud scheme
  • Lost property or assets
  • Lost earning opportunities
  • Injury to reputation
  • Emotional distress or mental anguish
  • Court costs and legal fees
  • Punitive damages

During a civil case, the burden of proof rests with the claimant. The person that filed the claim or his her criminal defense attorney must prove that the defendant breached a duty of care, and that this breach caused the damages in question. The burden is to prove the defendant’s negligence based on a preponderance of evidence. This is a lighter burden of proof than a criminal fraud case. If a defendant loses a criminal fraud case, he or she could face a conviction and penalties such as jail time or fines. If a defendant loses a civil fraud case, he or she could owe the victim financial restitution.