Articles Posted in Fraud

Providing false information to an insurance company in an effort to obtain benefits is a crime in Florida. Simply because an insurer does not rely on false information offered by an insured does not mean that an insured cannot be convicted of insurance fraud for offering such information. The State’s burden of proof in insurance fraud cases was the topic of a recent Florida opinion in a case in which the State appealed the dismissal of its charges against the defendant. If you are accused of committing fraud, it is in your best interest to consult a St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney to evaluate what defenses you may be able to assert.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was involved in a car crash in July 2016. He reported the accident to his insurer twice, and both times stated his car had been stolen and he was not driving it at the time of the collision. The insurer received the police report regarding the crash, though, which stated he was driving when it occurred. The insurer relied on the report and paid it out under the defendant’s collision coverage. The State ultimately charged the defendant with filing a false insurance claim. The defendant then moved to dismiss the charges on the grounds that the State failed to allege that the insurer relied on his false statements. The court granted the motion, and the State appealed.

Elements of Insurance Fraud in Florida

On appeal, the appellate court reversed the trial court ruling. The court explained that the statute was clear and unambiguous, and therefore, must be given its obvious and plain meaning. In relevant part, the statute stated that a person commits insurance fraud if they present any oral or written statement to the insurer in support of a claim, with the knowledge that it contains false, misleading, or incomplete information. Continue Reading ›

The Florida District Court of Appeal, Second District released an opinion on November 8, 2017, that addressed the due process rights available to a criminal defendant at a sentencing hearing. In the case, the defendant appealed the trial court’s decision to revoke his probation and impose a 40-month sentence. The Florida court of appeals applied earlier precedent from Florida criminal decisions to determine whether the State committed a reversible error when the defendant was interrupted during his sentencing hearing.

Due process rights require courts to render judgment only after they have properly considered the issues advanced by the parties. In the context of a probation violation hearing, the court must make separate determinations on whether to revoke probation and also whether the violation justifies the revocation of probation. The due process standard, according to the United States Supreme Court, gives a probationer the opportunity to present mitigating evidence and argue for sentencing alternatives when the trial court has sentencing discretion.

The primary Florida case cited was Amason v. State, 76 So. 3d 374 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2011). In Amason, the defendant pled guilty to violating her probation. The charge included four alleged violations of probation, including a violation of condition 9 for a failure to make restitution payments and a violation of condition 3 for changing her residence without the approval of her probation officer. The trial court questioned the defendant, but the trial court interrupted her three times. The defendant’s counsel was unable to cross-examine the witnesses at the hearing. Moreover, the defendant was not able to respond to the allegation that she had committed fraud and that the maximum sentence should be imposed. The appeals court found that the court violated her due process rights. The appeals court reversed the trial court’s decision and remanded for a revocation hearing before a different trial judge so that the defendant could present mitigating evidence.

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