False Pretenses is a type of larceny that is a theft or property. What separates False Pretenses from other types of larcenies is the intent to defraud the owner of property. In Fairfax County, a false pretense charge is taken seriously because of the deceptive nature of the taking. False Pretenses can be either a felony or misdemeanor depending on the value of the property involved or if fraud is used to obtain a signature. If you have received a False Pretense charge or know someone that has it is strongly recommended you contact an attorney. We offer a free consultation and would be happy to discuss your case with you. Give us a call or use the contact form.
False Pretenses: §18.2-178
False Pretenses in Virginia is defined by statute §18.2-178 and by case law. To sustain a conviction for False Pretenses, the Commonwealth must prove 1) an intent to defraud, 2) an actual fraud is committed, 3) false pretense must be used for the purpose of perpetrating the fraud, and 4) the fraud must be accomplished so to induce the owner to part with the property. So to be guilty of False Pretenses, essentially, one must make a false representation while knowing the representation is false in an effort to to obtain property or money from another person.
What is False Pretenses: Examples
Paying for merchandise with a check and then issuing a stop payment on the check without an explanation to the seller and without returning the merchandise is False Pretenses. Austin v. Commonwealth, 60 Va. App. 60 (2012).
Using a fraudulent withdrawal slip to allow the withdrawal of money from another's bank account is False Pretenses. Even though the bank discovered the forgery and did not debit the account owner's account, the money was obtained as a result of a fraud. Gardner v. Commonwealth, 32 Va. App. 595 (2000).
Writing checks belonging to a deceased individual to obtain goods is false pretenses. Argenbright v. Commonwealth, (2003).
What is Not False Pretenses: Examples
Where a person steals a vehicle it is not false pretenses because there was no ownership transfer. Shropshire v. Commonwealth, 40 Va. App. 34 (2003).
A person making a false statement, even if known, is not false pretenses unless there is an intent to defraud. Orr v. Commonwealth, 229 Va. 298 (1985).
A person how has both title and possession of a vehicle before fraudulently obtaining a certificate of title is not false pretenses because fraud was not used to induce the seller to part with their property. Bolden v. Commonwealth, 28 Va. App. 488 (1998).
Misdemeanor False Pretenses
False Pretenses is a larceny crime so if the value of the property taken is less than $200, it is a Class 1 Misdemeanor. It is treated by the law as if it were a Petit Larceny. As a result, there is a jail sentence of up to 12 months and a fine of up to $2500. It should be noted that a False Pretenses charge can result in a greater jail sentence because of the fraud associated with it.
Felony False Pretenses
If the value of the property taken has a value of $200 or more, False Pretenses is a Felony punishable by a prison sentence of up to 20 years and a $2500 fine. Felony False Pretenses is treated the same as if it were Grand Larceny but a sentence can be a bit harsher due to the fraud element noted above.
Preparing for Court
One of the first things we will discuss is the return of the property to the owner (assuming the Commonwealth can prove its case). Of course, if it's your property, then you have a bonafide claim-of-right to it. In any case, we will want to put you in a position where the Court can tell this behavior has not happened before and will not likely happen again in the future. Giving the Court that comfort will go a long way to ensure you avoid the harsh consequences associated with a False Pretense Conviction.