Regarding common crimes in California, much attention is given to severe and violent felonies. But crime is not always about violence. Though not violent-related, white-collar crimes are equally severe as they result in significant losses to those affected. California law is stringent on white-collar offenses as well. Thus, if you are under investigation in Monterey, you must consider hiring a skilled criminal attorney for legal advice and defense.

A white-collar conviction can result in lengthy prison time and a hefty court fine. That is why we take your charges seriously. Our skilled and experienced attorneys at Monterey Criminal Attorney will advise you on your rights and options and devise a fighting strategy for your charges. We aim to compel the judge to dismiss or downgrade your charges.

An Overview of White-Collar Crimes under California Law

White-collar crimes are criminal offenses committed by people in positions of power. In most cases, perpetrators are entrusted with property, and they take advantage of that trust to commit crimes that leave their victims with huge losses. Many people do not appreciate the seriousness of these offenses because they are non-violent. But the law does.

You can face federal or state white-collar charges, depending on the details of your case and where you committed the offense. These offenses include running Ponzi schemes, money laundering, embezzlement, financial fraud, missing false financial statements, insurance fraud, counterfeiting, tax evasion, illegal gambling, and perjury.

Stringent laws are in place against these offenses. You are advised to find a competent criminal attorney for advice and support if you face criminal white-collar charges. An experienced criminal defense attorney can quickly develop a fighting strategy that could result in a favorable outcome for your case.

But before your sentencing, the prosecutor must file charges and present evidence in court for the judge to declare you guilty of your charges. Proving some cases is challenging for prosecutors since white-collar crimes are committed mainly by intelligent and respectable community members. Sometimes, the evidence is insufficient to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. That is why some cases result in plea bargains between the prosecutor and the defendant. The prosecutor requests that you plead guilty to a lesser offense for a lenient sentence or offer alternative sentencing. A skilled attorney by your side will ensure that your best interests are served.

Here are some common white-collar crimes under the law. For more information and legal guidance, seek the help of a competent criminal attorney.

Filing a Forged or False Document

PC 115 is the law that makes it a criminal offense for anyone to knowingly register, file, or record a forged or false document in a public office. The violation can result in felony charges, punishable by up to three years in prison. Here are the elements of this crime that the prosecutor must prove for the jury to deliver a guilty verdict:

  • You had a document you needed to file or register with a public office.
  • You were aware that the document was forged or false when you submitted it for filing or registration.
  • If the document was authentic, you could have legally filed or registered it.

This law applies to many documents, including pay stubs, real estate documents (deeds of trusts and property deeds), and fishing records.

PC 115 is a straight felony offense punishable by the following:

  • Jail or prison for three years.
  • A court fine of $10,000.

You could also be subject to sentencing enhancements for violating this law. For example, if you have two or more prior convictions for embezzlement or fraud, the felonies form a pattern of criminal behavior. In that case, you could receive up to five years more on the underlying sentence.

California Perjury

According to PC 118, you omit perjury when deliberately providing false testimony under oath. The offense is a felony, punishable by four years in prison. Here are the facts of the offense that the district attorney must prove for the judge to give a guilty verdict in your case:

  • You swore under oath to provide a truthful testimony.
  • But you willfully provided untrue information, knowing very well that the information was false.
  • The information needed at the time was material.
  • You were aware that you were providing the testimony under oath.
  • Your intention at the time was to provide false testimony.

You could face perjury charges when providing testimony in the following situations:

  • In court, as a witness.
  • When signing an affidavit.
  • When being deposed.
  • When signing a certificate.
  • When signing a declaration.
  • During a license application with the DMV.

According to this law, an oath affirms a method used by law to confirm the validity of a testimony or statement.

As a felony offense, perjury is punishable by the following:

  • Four years in custody.
  • $10,000 in court fines.

A conviction under this law will have severe consequences for your life. For example, it will leave you with a damaging criminal record, affecting your social and career lives. A felony conviction will also impact your gun rights.

Misappropriating Public Funds

According to PC 424, it is a criminal offense for public officers or trustees of public resources to misappropriate funds under their care for inappropriate use. The crime is a felony, punishable by four years in prison. You also become permanently disqualified from holding a public office in the future.

Note that the people who face prosecution under this law are mainly local and public officials. But anyone holding a government office or accessing government money can also misappropriate funds. The elements of the offense that the prosecutor will prove in your case will depend on the section of this law you have violated. You can commit this crime in several ways, including the following:

Misappropriating Public Money Without Authority

It is a criminal offense to appropriate public money for personal use or another person's use without legal authority. If you face charges under this law and under this category, the elements of your offense would be:

  • You were a local or state government officer or a person in charge of receiving, safekeeping, transferring, or disbursing public money.
  • You appropriated the money under your charge for your use or someone else's use without legal authority.
  • You knew or should have known that doing so was illegal. or
  • You were criminally negligent when you failed to determine whether you had legal authority to appropriate the money.

Note: This statute applies to a public official or anyone entrusted with public money. It can be an official (elected or appointed) or an employee working for the local or state government.

Appropriating public money means using it for purposes other than what it is intended for.

Knowledge and criminal negligence are essential elements of this offense. For the court to find you guilty under PC 424, the prosecutor must demonstrate that:

  • You were aware that it was illegal to appropriate the money as you did.
  • You acted with criminal negligence when you failed to find out whether your actions were legal.

Profiting from, Loaning, or Misusing Public Money Without Authority

You also violate PC 424 by misusing, loaning, or benefiting from public money without legal authority. Here are the elements of this offense under this category:

  • You were a local or state government officer whose responsibilities included safekeeping, receipt, disbursement, or transfer of public money.
  • A rule prohibits using public money in specific situations, including loaning or profiting.
  • But you loaned someone else the money, profited from it, or used the money for any other purpose other than what it was intended for.
  • You were aware that doing so was prohibited, or
  • You acted with criminal negligence when you failed to find out whether or not you were allowed to do so.

Creating False Accounts/Fraudulently Destroying or Altering Existing Accounts

You could also face criminal charges under PC 424 for doing the following:

  • Knowingly creating and maintaining a false account or making a crucial fraudulent entry or erasure in any account relating to public funds.
  • Falsifying, altering, destroying, concealing, or obliterating any account relating to public funds with fraudulent intent.

It means that you can face charges for misappropriating public money without actually doing so as long as you knowingly mess up the accounts relating to public funds with fraudulent intent.

Failing to Transfer or Pay Public Funds

You could also be guilty of misappropriating public funds if you do the following:

  • You willingly omit or refuse to pay or transfer public money under your control when there is a draft, order, or warrant from an authority person requiring you to do so or when the law requires you to do so.
  • You willingly omit or refuse to make payments with public funds you receive when an authority figure or law requires you to do so.

The prosecutor must demonstrate that you know of your responsibility to make the payments or transfers or were criminally negligent for failing to determine your commitment towards the money.

Exceptions Under This Law

You are exempt from persecution under this law in cases involving minimal or incidental amounts of public funds. The prosecutor cannot file charges if the money you allegedly misappropriated is small.

Misappropriation of public money is a felony offense punishable by.

  • Felony probation or
  • Four years in prison or jail.
  • $10,000 in court fines.

California Forgery

You commit forgery under PC 470 if you falsify a signature, seal, or counterfeit documents with fraudulent intent. You can do so in so many ways, including the following:

  • Signing another person's name or the name of a fictitious person.
  • Counterfeiting or forging a signature, seal, or another person's handwriting.
  • Altering, corrupting, or falsifying a legal document, judgment or codicil.
  • Falsely making alterations, forgery, or counterfeiting specific documents like money orders, checks, and bonds.

The intent to defraud is a very crucial element of this offense. The prosecutor must demonstrate that:

  • You deceived or lied to another person.
  • You did so to deprive them of money, property, or legal rights.

The court can still find you guilty even if you failed to defraud the person or if no one suffered financial, property, or legal loss through your actions.

PC 470 is a wobbler offense, meaning the prosecutor can charge it as a felony or misdemeanor. The prosecutor's decision depends on the facts of the case and your criminal history.

A misdemeanor conviction is punishable by.

  • Misdemeanor probation or
  • One year in jail.
  • $1000 in court fines.

A felony conviction is punishable by.

  • Felony probation or
  • Three years in prison or jail.
  • $10,000 in court fines.

Note: The prosecutor will only file misdemeanor charges against you if the forged document is a money order, check, or similar document worth $950 or less.

Debit and Credit Card Fraud

The law has several statutes prohibiting different forms of debit and credit fraud. You commit fraud under these statutes if you use or access a debit or credit card to obtain money or buy goods or services without legal entitlement. These statutes include the following:

Handling a stolen debit or credit card (PC 484(e))

The law prohibits anyone from selling or possessing another person's credit card or credit card information without the owner's consent. The offense is prosecuted as grand theft, which is a wobbler. The prosecutor can charge it as a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the case details. A felony conviction is punishable by three years in jail or prison.

Falsifying credit or debit card information (PC 484(f))

This statute prohibits explicitly altering an existing credit or debit card or signing another person's details in a card transaction without their consent. The offense is prosecuted as forgery, which is a wobbler offense. A felony conviction is punishable by three years in prison or jail.

Using a credit or debit card or account fraudulently (PC 484(g))

The statute prohibits explicitly using a fake, stolen, or expired debit or credit card to obtain goods or services, knowing the card is invalid. Depending on the money involved, the prosecutor can file grand or petty theft charges.

A retailer using credit card fraudulently (PC 484(h))

Under this law, it is illegal for a retailer to knowingly accept card payments from a fake, revoked, or stolen credit card or falsify transaction information to receive payments for goods not sold.

Counterfeiting a credit card (PC 484(i))

This statute makes possessing or making a counterfeit credit card criminal. The law also prohibits possessing equipment used to make fake credit cards. The offense is a wobbler. A felony conviction is punishable by three years in jail.

Publishing credit or debit card information (PC 484(j))

Under this law, it is a crime to knowingly share another person's or business's credit card information for fraud purposes. Credit card information refers to passwords, PINs, and other private account information. The offense is a misdemeanor, punishable by six months in jail.

Commercial Bribery

According to PC 641.3, it is a criminal offense for an employee to accept a bribe of more than $250 to use their position for another person's benefit. This law promotes workplace transparency and fairness and ensures all employees make decisions on merit and not for personal gain. Here are the elements of the offense that the prosecutor must prove for the judge to find you guilty under this statute:

  • You worked in a particular company.
  • You solicited or accepted something worth $250 or more from another person, not your employer.
  • You acted with corrupt intent and without your employer's knowledge and consent.
  • You used your position to benefit another person illegally.

Having a corrupt intent means that you purposely intended to injure or defraud another person, whether your employer, the employer of the person issuing the bribe, or your employer's competitor.

Note that the person who issues or asks for a bribe and the one who accepts it are all considered corrupt under the law.

The crime is a wobbler. Misdemeanor charges result from a bribe worth $1000 or less. A conviction for a misdemeanor is punishable by one year in jail.

Felony charges result from cases involving a bribe worth more than $1000. A felony conviction is punishable by three years in jail.

Factors that Determine The Sentence of a White-Collar Crime

Prosecutors consider several factors when deciding how to charge a white-collar crime. Some factors include:

The Amount of Loss

White-collar crime usually includes acts and omissions that cause other people or companies to lose. The prosecutor will consider the amount of loss to decide how to file charges against you. For example, if you commit fraud, you can face felony or misdemeanor charges based on the amount involved. Your punishment will be graver if you are guilty of a felony rather than a misdemeanor.

Crime Sophistication Level

The prosecutor also considers how sophisticated your actions were in committing the crime. A more sophisticated violation will attract heftier penalties than a less sophisticated white-collar crime.

Amount or Number of Victims

The prosecutor considers how many people your actions have impacted and how much they could have suffered.

Defending Yourself Against White-Collar Crime Charges

Fortunately, you undergo a jury trial after an arrest for a white-collar crime. That allows you to protect your rights and defend yourself against your charges. You will likely obtain a favorable outcome for your case if you fight alongside a skilled criminal attorney. Your attorney can use one or more legal defense strategies to fight your charges or weaken the prosecutor's case. Here are examples of defense strategies that can work in your situation:

You Did Not Have Fraudulent Intent

Some white-collar crimes have fraudulent intent as one of the elements that the prosecutor must prove for the court to pass a guilty verdict. A skilled attorney can argue that, though you acted the way you did, you did not have fraudulent intent.

Intent is very challenging to prove for prosecutors. It is difficult to tell precisely what a person intended when they acted in one way or another. A competent attorney can use that to create reasonable doubt for the prosecutor.

The Prosecutor Lacks Sufficient Evidence

In criminal cases, the prosecutor requires sufficient evidence to prove all elements of an offense beyond a reasonable doubt. If that is not the case, then your attorney can petition the judge for a dismissal.

Remember that intelligent people commit some white-collar crimes without eyewitnesses or mistakes. Finding sufficient evidence to prosecute you could be challenging for the prosecutor. If that happens, the judge will dismiss your charges.

You Are Falsely Accused

Your attorney can use this defense if you face accusations for a crime you did not commit. It could be that another person committed the crime, and you were unaware of it. False accusations are not unusual, especially concerning severe criminal cases. Some people falsely accuse others out of jealousy, revenge, or to gain an advantage over them.

You Are a Victim of Police Entrapment

Sometimes, the police use tricks to catch law-breakers in the act of crime. Police entrapment is acceptable, but you can challenge it in court if you only committed the crime because the officer tricked or forced you to do it. Again, it is unlawful for the police to use force or coercion to cause an innocent person to commit a crime. An experienced criminal attorney will compel the judge to dismiss your charges.

Find a Competent Criminal Attorney Near Me

Do you or someone you know face criminal charges for a white-collar offense in Monterey?

Navigating the criminal justice system can be challenging, especially if this is your first arrest. It is necessary to seek legal advice and support right away. Then, you can understand what to expect, your options, and the possible outcome of your case beforehand.

We could help you through the complex legal process at Monterey Criminal Attorney, protect your rights, and fight alongside you in the trial. We only stop once you obtain a favorable result. Call us at 831- 574-1791 for more information about white-collar crimes and our services.