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Lies and Crime: What Are False Pretense Laws?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

Remember when your parents told you you would get in less trouble if you just told the truth? Or the phrase, "the cover-up is worse than the crime?" There are many instances where lying makes a bad situation worse, and the criminal justice system is no different.

Take theft, for instance -- taking someone else's property without permission. Theft can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on how much you stole. What about if you get their permission, but you lie to get it? In most states, that's called obtaining property by false pretense, and almost always a felony. Let's look at some state laws as an example.

The Sunshine State

Florida has an entire False Pretenses and Frauds section of their criminal code that covers everything from obtaining property by false personation (saying you're someone else) to receiving money or property upon false promises of services as seaman or sponge fisher (saying you're a ... you get it). While some of Florida's false pretense crimes are misdemeanors, filing false or fraudulent insurance claims is a third-degree felony, punishable with five years in prison.

The Golden State

California, on the other hand, has a more broad statute that seemingly covers any false pretenses situation:

Every person who knowingly and designedly, by any false or fraudulent representation or pretense, defrauds any other person of money, labor, or property, whether real or personal, or who causes or procures others to report falsely of his or her wealth or mercantile character, and by thus imposing upon any person obtains credit, and thereby fraudulently gets possession of money or property, or obtains the labor or service of another, is punishable in the same manner and to the same extent as for larceny of the money or property so obtained.

So obtaining by false pretenses is the same as obtaining by theft.

The Tar Heel State

North Carolina makes obtaining property by false pretenses a felony, and criminalizes "knowingly and designedly by means of any kind of false pretense whatsoever ... obtain[ing] or attempt[ing] to obtain from any person within this State any money, goods, property, services, chose in action, or other thing of value with intent to cheat or defraud any person of such money, goods, property, services, chose in action or other thing of value."

If you've been charged with a false pretenses crime, or any other criminal offense, talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney today.

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