More and more, I'm seeing people being charged with the crime of theft by pretenses under California Penal Code 532 PC. This has to do with one person tricking another person into giving them money or property and that person not performing their end of the bargain.
For example, if someone claimed that they could perform certain services for another person – whether it be doing some work at their home – doing some work at their job, or giving them something of value. The person that made that promise had no intention of doing that and took the other person's money, then that would be theft by pretenses.
This is a different crime than grand theft or robbery. Because in those crimes, the person is taking the property away from the other person without their consent, either by force, fear or they're just going and taking it, and the person doesn't see it.
In a pretenses case, the other person's willingly giving the money or property, thinking that they're going to get something in return. In reality, though, the person taking the property never intends to fulfill any promise that they've made or give that person anything. Still, instead, they're tricking them by pretenses for that person to provide them with money or some property and then claiming that they don't know the person or didn't have anything to do with that contract or relationship.
Defenses for Theft by False Pretenses
As far as defenses to theft by pretenses cases, if the defendant that's charged with this case has performed the obligation that they were supposed to or provided the goods, or whatever they were supposed to do in exchange for what the other person gave them, then this would be a defense.
Sometimes I see scenarios where a person is charged with theft by pretenses, and in reality, they did what they were supposed to. Still, the other party was just not satisfied with what they did and was angry because they didn't believe that they fulfilled what they were supposed to, so then they went to the police and claimed the other person didn't do anything.
In these types of cases, this could be a defense because then we could show the prosecutors – well, wait a minute, they didn't intend to trick anybody.
The other party just wasn't satisfied with whatever that person did. This is more of a civil dispute and should not be filed as a criminal case in this scenario. Criminal cases – when it comes to these types of offenses – where someone is accused of trying to con another person – should only be charged if there is evidence that the person never intended to perform or give what they were supposed to and that this was just all a ruse for them to get money or property.
In this scenario, if someone is not satisfied and angry, they can take that person to civil court and try to get back whatever they gave or try to get a portion of that back, but it should not be filed as a criminal case. Criminal cases should not be used to earn money or solve civil disputes between people.
The police, prosecutors, and judges are very wary of individuals trying to use the criminal system to get the upper hand when it comes to a civil dispute. This is where a defense attorney like me comes in and has to show the prosecutors and the judge that there's more than meets the eye here – that there's another version of events that have taken place and that this case should not be charged at the criminal level and should be dealt with on a civil basis.
If they can be convinced of this, then the case will be dismissed, and they will tell the alleged victim that they need to go and file a lawsuit if they feel that they have been treated. But often, these people go to the police, and they only give a one-sided version, and they don't give any of the information that shows that the other side argues.
This is where your attorney comes in – to fight for you – to speak for you. A lot of times, I intervene in these cases with the police. I'm able to give the other side of the story, and then when the prosecutors get the chance, they realize that they're not going to file a criminal lawsuit on this because this person wasn't trying to deceive the other party. Still, instead, the other party is not satisfied with whatever they did.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney
So, suppose you're charged with theft by pretenses, and you have a defense in your mind. In that case, you need to sit down with an attorney who's experienced with these cases – give him all the facts, don't put a spin on it, let them know what happened, and then let them help you and educate you as to whether or not you can defend yourself. If you can't protect yourself, if they've got the goods on you and they're going to be able to prove the case, then other strategies need to be employed to negotiate.
Often, if we can make the alleged victim whole and give them back whatever it is they are missing based on the transaction, then the prosecutors will consider this and not prosecute you or mitigate the case down to something less than what they charged you with. You can avoid going to jail and many other penalties that come along with a criminal case.
So, make the phone call to the Hedding Law Firm. Take the first step towards resolving your matter and getting yourself out of the criminal justice system. Contact our criminal defense law firm for a free case evaluation.