Fraud might be considered a white-collar crime, but these charges can carry significant penalties. Fraud carries a broad definition, but if you’re convicted, you could face time behind bars and other consequences.

Your charges might’ve resulted from a mistake by the prosecution, or maybe you didn’t know you were committing fraud. Either way, you deserve help from an Oakland fraud defense lawyer like Attorney Seth Morris.

Call our office today at 510-330-0814 to schedule your free initial strategy session.

Defining Fraud in California

As a legal concept, fraud is a broad term. Under California law, any crime that uses deception that creates an unfair or undeserved benefit or harm to another person may be defined as fraud. The harm caused by the criminal activity is usually financial, but not every fraud case involves money. You could be accused of fraud if you trick someone into doing something illegal.

Fraud can come in many varieties. Some crimes involve insurance fraud, while others are related to real estate fraud. Others are generally considered theft.

Fraud as a Wobbler Offense

In California, fraud is a “wobbler” offense. That means you could be charged with a misdemeanor or felony level crime. Your charges will depend on the circumstances of your case, which will determine the sentence you face. Some fraud charges are always considered felonies.

Fraud Can Be a Federal Offense

Some crimes can be considered state or federal offenses. Under the US Code, federal fraud is defined as making false representations within the jurisdiction of the federal government. Federal crimes carry significantly heavier penalties compared to state charges. Finding an experienced fraud defense lawyer is crucial to clearing your name.

Common Types of Fraud in California

You could be accused of fraud related to insurance, real estate, or other generic theft crimes. Here are some examples of California crimes that are considered fraud.

Cyber Fraud

Whenever someone uses computers, the internet, or other technology to access, steal, or alter unauthorized data or use someone else’s identity online for illegal purposes, they are committing cyber fraud. You could be accused of “hacking” someone’s social media accounts in order to defraud people they know, for instance.


If someone abuses another’s trust to misappropriate personal property, they can be accused of embezzlement. This crime typically involves money. You might be accused of embezzling your company’s funds if you pocket it yourself.

Wire Fraud

If someone uses the mail or electronic means to defraud someone else, they can be accused of wire or mail fraud. This charge includes actions taken on the phone, social media, or e-mail. An example of wire fraud is phishing attempts.

Money Laundering

You can be accused of laundering money if you attempt to hide that the money resulted from criminal activity. You do not have to have been involved in the crime that earned this money: you could be accused of laundering money if the prosecution can show you knew about the criminal activity. Examples of money laundering include illegal sports betting or illicit drug sales.


Someone could commit bribery if they were caught giving, receiving, offering, or asking something of value to influence someone in a position of authority. You might be accused of attempting to bribe a police officer if you don’t want a ticket, or you could be accused of bribery to get a nomination to city council.

Other Types of Fraud

Fraud charges cover a wide spectrum of crimes. You might be accused of defrauding the government or other subsidy programs or stealing from another person. If you’re accused of using deceit to benefit yourself, you should discuss your circumstances with an Oakland fraud defense lawyer. They can help you interpret your charges and determine what laws you’re accused of breaking. Your actions could have been a misunderstanding, or you could be a victim yourself.

Penalties for Oakland Fraud Convictions

Different levels of fraud charges bring different levels of sentences.

Misdemeanor fraud: if you’re convicted of a misdemeanor fraud charge, you’ll face up to one year in jail and fines ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 or even $50,000. In some instances, your fine will be double the amount of money you defrauded the alleged victim.
Felony fraud: a felony conviction can earn you two, three, or five years in county jail. You could also be fined up to $50,000.
Felony fraud: sentencing for a federal fraud charge follows complicated guidelines. The extent of the crime will determine the maximum punishment you could face. However, a conviction could mean years, even decades, in federal prison. You may owe fines ranging from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Some crimes are punishable with fines of up to $1 million.

Collateral Consequences for Oakland Fraud Charges

Besides incarceration and significant fines, you could face other penalties if convicted of fraud. You might lose your social standing because people believe you’re running a con. You might lose any professional licenses you’ve worked hard to earn. Or you might face deportation if you have immigration issues.

How Do I Defend Against Fraud Charges?

Fraud charges can cast a shadow on your reputation. A conviction could make your life more challenging. Finding the right defense attorney with the right approach to your case could mean all the difference to your future and your freedom.

You Had No Intention to Defraud Anyone

You might have been accused of some kind of fraud, say insurance or benefits fraud. However, your “crime” might have been the result of an accident or mistake when you were filling out a form. You’ll still be charged with fraud, but a good attorney can explain the error and help you find a path to get the charges dropped or reduced.

You Were a Victim Yourself

There are many routes scammers and fraudsters can take to achieve their goals. Sometimes those routes involve using other people to commit their crimes. You might prove that it wasn’t you committing fraud, but rather someone using your online identity to defraud others. A qualified attorney can help you prove you weren’t the one acting illegally.

The Police Illegally Gathered Evidence

Law enforcement investigations have procedures in place to ensure they’re fair and without bias. Through discovery, your attorney might prove that the police investigating any perceived wrongdoing didn’t follow proper procedure and violated your rights.

Why Do I Need an Oakland Fraud Defense Attorney?

Fraud cases can be challenging and complicated, especially if you’re not sure how you committed the crimes you’re accused of. A knowledgeable Oakland fraud attorney can explain your charges and help you devise a strategy to beat them. They’ll investigate your case, find alibis, and determine if the police violated your rights.

The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed fraud. If they have solid evidence, your attorney can advise you on plea deals and negotiate the best option for you. A skilled attorney will work on solutions to reduce the time you have behind bars or get the charges dropped altogether.

Get Help from a Fraud Attorney in Oakland, CA

You might feel hopeless after you’ve been charged with fraud, but you shouldn’t face these charges alone. The right criminal defense lawyer will understand your case and help you fight the charges. Morris Law has helped countless Bay area citizens to defend themselves.

Attorney Seth Morris understands how devastating criminal convictions are, and he’s prepared to help you fight the allegations against you. Call 510-330-0814 or use our contact form to schedule your initial consultation.