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.
The court noted that while the law required proof that such statements were made with the intent to deceive or defraud an insurer, justifiable reliance was not one of the elements. In other words, the State was not required to demonstrate that the insurer depended on the false statement and suffered harm as a result. Instead, it merely required proof of a false statement made with the intent to deceive. As the charging documents adequately set forth information sufficient to support the charges against the defendant, the appellate court reversed the trial court ruling.
Meet with a Seasoned St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Attorney
Insurance fraud is often charged as a felony offense that carries a minimum penalty of one year in jail. As such, it is critical for anyone charged with insurance fraud to set forth a compelling defense. If you are charged with engaging in a fraud scheme, it is smart to meet with an attorney to discuss your potential defenses. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a seasoned St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney who can gather the evidence needed to provide you with a good chance of a favorable outcome, and if you hire him, he will work diligently on your behalf. You can contact Mr. Hanlon at 727-897-5413 or via the form online to set up a conference.