Fraud is a crime of dishonesty, and as such, it can have lasting consequences for a convicted person. Although fraud can be a criminal offence or a civil one, depending on the circumstances of the case, it can result in having a criminal record. Despite being a non-violent act, if you are found guilty of fraud under $5,000, that can result in a permanent criminal conviction.
The maximum penalty for fraud under $5,000 is two years in prison. However, the severity of your punishment will depend on whether or not there are aggravating circumstances present such as premeditated planning and breach-of trust by you specifically with regards to this crime; which could lead up to longer sentences if convicted.
In addition to criminal penalties, it includes adversity when pursuing employment opportunities as well as permanent damage to an individual’s personal reputation.
Types of Fraud Under $5000 Offences
Dealing With Criminal Fraud Charges in Canada
Fraud is a type of white-collar crime involving an individual’s deception in return for financial gain. Like theft, it involves illegally obtaining a benefit (goods, services, money or valuable security). However, it is legally distinctive from theft.
Fraud offences may be committed through acts or omissions. It could be as simple as intentionally omitting important information to an investor or opening a credit account using someone else’s personal information. Regardless of how the offence occurs, a conviction can result in life-changing consequences.
The penalty for fraud in Canada varies depending on the value of the subject matter of the offence. Therefore, it is essential to understand the different categories of fraud and their penalties.
This guide focuses on fraud under $5,000 in Canada. It will look at the penalties of this fraud category and the legal process when fighting this type of charge.
What Is Fraud Under $5,000?
Under Section 380(1) of the Canadian Criminal Code, you commit fraud if you defraud a person of their money or valuable security through deceit or fraudulent means. It is referred to as fraud under $5,000 when the subject of the fraud is lower than $5,000. You may face fraud under $5,000 charges in several ways. Some common examples of offences that may fall under that category include:
Credit card fraud: Stealing someone’s credit card information and using it to make an authorized purchase for your benefit is a criminal offence.
Forgery: This involves creating a false document and leading someone to believe it is genuine. Altering, amending or removing information from a document counts as forgery in Canada.
Identity fraud: This type of charge arises when you obtain a person’s identity information to commit an indictable offence under false pretence.
Insurance fraud: This involves knowingly lying to an insurance company or exaggerating the extent of your accident injuries for financial gain.
Securities fraud: You commit this type of fraud when you provide misleading information to investors to secure a purchase or sale of stocks.
Shoplifting: This is a prevalent form of fraud in Canada. Intentionally manipulating the price of an item in a retail store to reflect a discounted price is a crime.
Legal Consequences and Penalties
In Canada, fraud under $5,000 is considered a summary offence, especially if you are a first-time offender. The penalty for a summary conviction is a maximum fine of $5,000 or a term of imprisonment not exceeding two years less a day or both.
You may also face civil charges for committing this offence. The alleged victim may file a civil claim against you for compensation. If their claim is successful, the court may award compensation in their favour. This may include repayment of the amount plus other fees they may have incurred due to the offence.
If you are convicted, your information will appear on the Canadian police information database. It will also result in a criminal record accessible to the public. Therefore, anyone who runs a background check with your name will see the record of the criminal offence, including employers, insurance companies and housing agents.
This could have devastating consequences on your life and freedom. Most employers frown at the thought of hiring prospective employees with criminal records. A criminal record may also affect the following:
Your ability to travel to other countries, such as the United States, as a fraud conviction is considered a crime of moral turpitude in the U.S.
Your opportunity for housing in certain areas
If you have children, it may raise child custody issues
You may lose your professional license or the chance to obtain one
It may prevent you from volunteering for specific projects
If you are charged with fraud under $5,000, seeking legal representation from an experienced criminal defence lawyer is crucial. They will help you understand the charges against you and your legal options.
Factors That May Aggravate Fraud Under $5,000 Charges
Several aggravating factors may increase the severity of a fraud under a $5,000 charge, resulting in a harsher sentence. These include:
- Repeat offender: If you were previously convicted of fraud or any other criminal offence, this may negatively impact your sentence.
- Amount involved: The higher the amount involved in the fraud, the more severe your sentence may be.
- Degree of planning: If the prosecution can prove that you planned or organized the fraud, it could lead to a harsher sentence. The court may consider this an indication of your fraudulent intent.
- Number of victims: If multiple people were affected by your actions, it could lead to a harsher sentence.
The Legal Process
Initial Arrest and Bail Hearing
After the victim makes a complaint to the police about the incident, they will investigate. Once they are done gathering the necessary evidence, they will arrest you if they believe you are the culprit. Upon your arrest, the police will take you to their station, where you will be questioned. You can remain silent and request a lawyer present during questioning.
The police may release you immediately on a release order, allowing you to return to the community while your case is pending. However, they may decide to hold you in custody in more serious cases. If that happens, they must bring you before a justice of the peace within 24 hours for a bail hearing. At the bail hearing, the justice will decide whether to release you on bail with conditions or keep you in custody.
After you receive a notification of your first court hearing, your fraud case will proceed in the following order:
- Arraignment: At this stage, you will be formally charged with fraud and asked to plead guilty or not guilty. A guilty plea means you accept the charges against you. Therefore, the court will proceed with the sentencing. A not-guilty plea means a trial date will be set for you to challenge the alleged fraud charges.
- Preliminary hearing: At this hearing, the court will determine if there is enough evidence to convict you. The Crown prosecutor will present evidence, including witnesses. Your lawyer may cross-examine the witnesses.
- Trial: The judge will consider all the evidence presented to determine if you are guilty or not guilty of the criminal act. It is up to the Crown prosecutor to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that you committed the offence.
Do Not Wait Until You Have Been Charged: Seek Help From Our Lawyers Today
If you face criminal charges for fraud under $ 5,000, an experienced Sondhi Defence criminal defence lawyer can help. A fraud charge can be life-changing, and having a criminal defence lawyer on your side can give you peace of mind. At Sondhi Defence, we are committed to helping our clients get the best possible results at trial. We are familiar with fraud laws and can help you understand your charges.
Our lawyers can provide you with legal counsel and representation in court. We can also build an effective defence strategy before your trial to help you avoid a conviction. We can also negotiate a more lenient sentence with the Crown.
Book a free consultation with one of our lawyers today for transparent and honest advice about your fraud charges.
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