Attorney for Fraud Charges in Walton County, Georgia
Much like theft, the laws regarding fraud in Georgia are broader than one might think, covering a wide range of conduct. Fraud offenses can be misdemeanors or serious felonies and often the difference between two crimes is slight, even if they carry vastly different sentences. A skilled criminal defense attorney can help you ensure that you are properly charged, advise you of defenses you might have, and fight to keep your criminal record clean.
One common fraud offense in Georgia is forgery, which the law divides into four degrees of severity. Third and fourth degree forgery concern checks, whereas first and second degree forgery cover other “writings.” The differences between the various degrees of forgery are slight, but the possible sentences vary greatly. For example, the only difference between first and second degree forgery is whether the defendant “utters or delivers” the fraudulent writing, but first degree forgery carries a possible sentence of fifteen years in prison, while the maximum sentence for second degree forgery is only five years. Similarly, third degree forgery is a felony and fourth degree forgery is a misdemeanor, but the only difference between the two is the amount of the fraudulent check in question.
Identity fraud is one of the broadest fraud offenses under Georgia law and is a favorite of prosecutors because it overlaps significantly with forgery but, in many cases, carries a harsher sentence. Identity fraud occurs when someone uses or possesses with intent to fraudulently use any “identifying information concerning a person,” which is often that person’s name. No “writing” is required and the defendant need not gain anything from using the other person’s information, but the victim must be a real person, rather than a fictional one. The maximum penalty for identity fraud is ten years in prison for a first offense and fifteen years for a second or subsequent offense.
Other Fraud Offenses
While forgery and identity fraud are the most common fraud offenses in Georgia, there are many others which may apply in certain cases. Some examples include taking or using another person’s credit or debit card without permission (financial transaction card theft and financial transaction card fraud), depositing or cashing bad checks at a bank (deposit account fraud), and unauthorized use of another person’s computer (computer theft, computer trespass, and computer forgery).
What to do when Charged with a Fraud Offense?
Fraud is one of the most complex areas of Georgia criminal law, with multiple overlapping offenses which differ only slightly, but carry a wide range of possible sentences. Therefore, it is crucial to consult with an attorney who is aware of these distinctions and can ensure that you are properly charged. An attorney can advise you of whether a reduction in charges may be possible and whether you have any potential defenses to raise at trial. Contact us today for a free consultation!