Many law firms offer an aggressive and comprehensive approach to defense of their clients, but don’t offer a lot of specifics as to how they arrive at their defense strategies. At The Leventis Law Firm, we don’t work on your behalf while you are kept in the dark. We want you to be as informed as possible, every step of the way, about your case. When we meet with you during your free initial consultation appointment, we sketch out an approach and discuss options and choices in the path ahead of you, and then together we will decide the best direction forward.
If you have been charged with fraud in South Carolina, understanding what lies ahead, and what options you may face, is crucial to your defense case. Fraud can be a misdemeanor or a felony. Some of that depends on the amount at stake. Fraud, forgery, embezzlement and other similarly classified fraud-related crimes that involve more than $10,000 are considered felonies, but there can be other criminal charges brought along with the fraud charge.
Conviction of any crime can follow you for years to come, making it difficult to obtain a job or a loan, barring you from voting, and it can have many other negative consequences.
Here, we discuss how we approach the defense of our clients who have been accused of a crime.
WHO PROVES WHAT? THE BURDEN OF PROOF
In criminal proceedings, the burden of proof is on the prosecution. Most people know the accused is “innocent until proven guilty.” What that means is that a criminal defense lawyer’s job is not to prove you didn’t do whatever crime you are accused of perpetrating — it’s to find flaws, problems, or holes in the case the prosecution presents. If the prosecution cannot prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that a defendant has committed the crime or crimes in question, you can walk free.
Most folks also know you have a right to an attorney who will represent you and your interests—everyone is entitled to a defense. How a lawyer chooses to go after the problems with the prosecution’s case is the defense strategy. Generally, this means finding flaws in the prosecution’s logic/reasoning, problems with the presented evidence (or lack thereof), and discrediting witnesses.
GUILTY, BUT… NOT. EXTENUATING CIRCUMSTANCES IN CRIMINAL CASES
You can be guilty of committing a crime of fraud or forgery, including petit or grand larceny, but there can be extenuating circumstances that can be used in your defense, arguing that those circumstances should be considered so that you are found not guilty of the crime. The following are just some of the self-defense strategies at the disposal of criminal defense lawyers.
The most often used tactic is self-defense. If the defendant felt there was imminent danger to their life, safety, and well-being so they harmed another while defending themselves from harm in the process of the crime that was committed, that is a self-defense case. However, it can be tricky to prove “feelings,” especially in the heated moments of an altercation. This is when the skill and experience of an attorney can come into play, as they may have relevant experience in cases or case law with similar circumstances that can strengthen this defense strategy.
Another strategy, and one of the most well-known defenses as seen on many TV shows and movies, is entrapment. If your lawyer can prove you were set up or “trapped” by members of law enforcement into a situation that led to you breaking the law, this is entrapment, and that is not enforceable.
One might also be determined to not be at fault if it is determined that there was permission given to the defendant to perpetrate the act in question. For example, if the prosecution alleged that a checkbook was stolen, the defense can mount a strategy to prove that the defendant had consent to take and use that item, and so no crime was committed.
If you were forced or threatened into participating in a criminal act, that is considered coercion, another defense strategy.
If it can be proven that your intent was not to break the law, but you did so completely inadvertently, this can also be used as a line of defense. For example, if you exchanged counterfeit money in return for goods or services, but did not know that the money was counterfeit, you didn’t intend to commit a crime.
If you did not know you were participating in a crime, you can also be absolved of guilt. This can be a challenge, because lack of knowledge of the law does not mean permission to break a law, and that is not what this defense means. This defense is sometimes employed in bigger cases with multiple defendants. For example, if multiple people at a company are included in an embezzlement lawsuit, one or more of those parties may have had no idea that others were perpetrating that crime.
Another strategy seen on TV (but one which is much harder to prove in court) is the insanity defense. In this strategy, your lawyers must prove that you were mentally incapable of distinguishing between right and wrong during the crime. This requires testimony by mental health and behavioral experts who can back up this defense. Many times, this may not completely absolve you of the crime, but it may lead to a lesser charge and rehabilitation efforts.
WHAT ELSE? OTHER CRIMINAL DEFENSE STRATEGIES
There are numerous other defense strategies that can be employed in fraud cases, as there are literally hundreds of different types of circumstances, and no two cases are exactly alike. There are plea bargains that both sides can come to, lessening the original charges. There are circumstances other than insanity where someone might have committed a crime without understanding they were doing so, such as being under the influence of drugs (prescribed or illegal) or alcohol.
Obtaining a lawyer who understands every possible defense strategy, and who is experienced in defending cases like yours in court, can be crucial to the best possible outcome for your fraud case. Understanding every aspect of the South Carolina Criminal Code, which lists all of the crimes and offenses someone can be charged with in South Carolina, particularly Chapter 13, which covers fraud and related charges, is vitally important. The Leventis Law Firm works with transparency, confidentiality, and expediency for all of our clients. We work with you and for you to find the best possible defense strategy for your case.