FORMER PROSECUTOR Pedro BERNAL, ESQ.

San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney

You Need The Right Experience To Protect Your Freedom.

5/5
Pedro Bernal is extremely professional and always made sure to answer all my questions. A reliable criminal defense attorney that you can definetly count on. His experience as a former prosecutor made a world of a difference when dealing with my case. Thank you, Mr. Bernal!
- Melissa Marquez, Real Client

Attorney Pedro Bernal

Prior to forming Bernal Law, APLC I served as a prosecutor for almost a decade. Throughout my legal career, I have handled hundreds of cases, ranging from misdemeanors and civil regulatory violations, to complex, white-collar criminal matters and violent felonies in the trial courts, as well as appellate cases in the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
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16 Years of Experience on Both Sides of the Courtroom.

Watch this short video to learn how my experience can help you to get the best possible result for your case.

HAVE YOU RECENTLY BEEN CHARGED WITH A CRIMINAL OFFENSE?

If so, you know all too well the emotional, psychological, and financial stress that a criminal charge can bring with it. Whether you have been charged with a felony or misdemeanor, convictions can result in jail time, high fines, probation, and a bevy of other consequences. Criminal defense laws can be complex and confusing. Furthermore, prosecutors are relentless in their pursuit of convictions. Defendants without legal representation are fighting an uphill battle against a seasoned prosecution. Do not wait until it’s too late to mount a strong defense, contact a top-rated criminal defense attorney in San Diego at Bernal Law today. Learn more about our practice areas below.

WHY MY EXPERIENCE
WILL HELP YOU

As a former prosecutor for 10 years I understand exactly how the State or Feds will prepare their case against you. I know the capabilities they have and their limitations. This experience will give you an advantage so we can build the best defense possible. The attorney you choose is going to be the biggest factor in the outcome of your case.

If you have been arrested the prosecutors are already building a case against you. Tell me about your case and let’s start planning the strongest defense we can to preserve your freedom.

PRACTICE AREAS WE
SPECIALIZE IN

Hit-and-Run

Hit-and-Run

A Brief Summary of the Following Article

  • Legal Obligations: In California, a hit-and-run charge arises when a person involved in a car accident leaves the scene without exchanging contact and insurance information, crucial for addressing any property damage or medical issues.
  • Case Differences: The handling of a hit-and-run case varies based on the severity of the incident, such as whether there are serious injuries, fatalities, or only property damage. Seeking advice from a hit-and-run defense lawyer like Bernal Law is recommended for tailored guidance.
  • Consequences: Hit-and-run convictions in San Diego can lead to fines, jail time, probation, and license suspension, with the severity depending on factors like the charge’s seriousness and prior offenses. Legal representation can help mitigate these consequences.
  • Legal Assistance: A hit-and-run defense lawyer from Bernal Law provides comprehensive support, including witness interviews, evidence gathering, case preparation, and navigating the legal system. 
  • Please get in touch with us at (619) 736-9092 or complete our contact form.

Getting into a car accident can be incredibly stressful, especially if you are the individual who might be at fault. And depending on the circumstances, you might be in a rush and feel forced to leave the scene. Whether you’re facing a hit-and-run charge or any other criminal accusation, Bernal Law is equipped to provide the guidance and representation you need in these challenging times. Bernal Law offers a comprehensive defense approach, utilizing our deep understanding of both sides of the legal system to craft effective strategies for all clients.

If you need a San Diego hit-and-run defense lawyer, Bernal Law, led by experienced criminal defense attorney Pedro Bernal, Esq., is a firm you can count on. With a rich background as a prosecutor, Pedro Bernal brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in criminal defense, including hit-and-run cases. Praised for his professionalism, trustworthiness, and attentive client service, Attorney Bernal is highly recommended by those he has represented. 

What Constitutes a Hit and Run in California?

Under California law, someone may be charged with a hit and run if they are involved in a car accident and leave the scene before exchanging the necessary information. Before leaving, you must share contact and insurance information with the other impacted drivers. Exchanging this information is required in case someone needs to address property damage or medical issues.

There are distinctions between the way your case can be handled, specifically regarding whether anyone received severe injuries or has died. The case will be managed differently if only property damage was connected to the incident. If you need more information about handling your case, contact a hit-and-run defense lawyer in San Diego. A hit-and-run defense lawyer from Bernal Law can support you in many ways during this legal challenge, including breaking down how specific laws will apply to your case.

What Are the Potential Consequences of a Hit-and-Run Conviction in San Diego?

Depending on the severity of your charges, you may face different consequences for a hit and run. For example, a misdemeanor will be treated less severely than a felony. You are also more likely to face negative consequences if you are a repeat offender. The following penalties are commonly granted to those with hit-and-run charges:

  • Fines
  • Jail time
  • Probation
  • License suspension

Other penalties may also apply to your case. However, by retaining support from an attorney at Bernal Law, you are more likely to reduce the severity of any consequences. Our hit-and-run defense lawyer knows how to fight for your best interests. In some cases where someone is proven innocent, you may not have to face any consequences for charges.

How Can a Hit-and-Run Defense Lawyer Assist You?

Whenever you are involved in legal matters, we strongly recommend you work with a qualified hit-and-run defense lawyer for support. A hit-and-run defense lawyer from Bernal Law can provide valuable support. We can aid you in several ways, including but not limited to the following:

  • Interview witnesses
  • Help formulate a plea
  • Investigate the prosecutor’s case
  • Evaluate potential sentences
  • Gather evidence
  • Review search and seizure procedures
  • Conduct an independent investigation into the accident
  • Prepare your case for court
  • Collect evidence to reduce liability
  • Ensuring that all documents are filed correctly and on time
  • Communicate with the other parties on your behalf
  • Organize and present the evidence
  • Access research methods and tools only available to legal professionals

Please refrain from representing yourself during your case, as this may exacerbate any negative consequences you could face. Self-representation may also lengthen litigation and increase your levels of stress. However, retaining legal support from a San Diego hit-and-run defense lawyer at Bernal Law can simplify the legal process and aid you in navigating the court system.

Fight for Fair Representation and Reduced Compensation: Contact Bernal Law Today

If you’ve been involved in a hit-and-run incident in San Diego, the importance of experienced legal representation cannot be overstated. At Bernal Law, we specialize in providing robust defense strategies for those involved in criminal defense cases. Our lead hit-and-run defense attorney, Pedro Bernal, Esq., brings invaluable insight from his extensive experience, including his background as a prosecutor. This unique perspective allows us to anticipate prosecution tactics and build a stronger defense for you. 

We understand the complexities of California’s hit-and-run laws and are committed to guiding you through each step of the legal process, ensuring that your rights are protected and your case is handled with the utmost care and professionalism. For more information or to schedule your consultation, please get in touch with us at (619) 736-9092 or complete our contact form. Let Bernal Law stand by your side and fight for your rights. We’re also fluent in English and Spanish.

Expungement

Expungement

A Brief Summary of the Following Page

  • Expungement, a legal process to clear a criminal record, offers a path to normalcy and restored rights, and Bernal Law can guide you through this journey.
  • Eligibility for expungement in California includes fulfilling probation terms and not being convicted of certain serious crimes, with Bernal Law available for tailored legal advice.
  • Costs for expungement vary based on the nature of the conviction, with misdemeanors generally costing less than felonies, and Bernal Law can help navigate these financial aspects.
  • Bernal Law’s expungement attorney, with extensive experience in criminal defense and prosecution, offers comprehensive support in the expungement process, including case preparation, evidence collection, and legal system navigation.
  • Contact Bernal Law at (619) 736-9092 or complete our contact form

Legal involvement in crimes can reflect poorly on our lives, so seeking xpungement might seem like a good way to regain your quality of life and certain rights. At Bernal Law, San Diego expungement Attorney Pedro Bernal leverages his extensive experience as a former prosecutor to offer robust legal defense in criminal cases. Our firm specializes in a variety of practice areas, including drug crimes, domestic violence, violent crimes, DUI offenses, and white-collar crimes. Our San Diego expungement lawyers would be happy to aid many clients in expunging any records we possibly can. 

Mr. Bernal’s background in prosecuting complex cases now informs his approach to crafting strong defenses for his clients. With a focus on protecting the freedom and rights of individuals, Bernal Law stands out as a committed ally in navigating the complexities of the criminal justice system. We encourage you to contact Bernal Law as soon as possible to retain valuable legal support during this challenging time. Expungement attorney Pedro Bernal will work hard to help you reduce the severity of consequences and fight by your side for your rights.

What is Expungement?

In short, expungement is the destruction of a criminal record or conviction. Specifically, it is a legal process someone can utilize once they have fulfilled the consequences of their conviction. Specific criteria determine who qualifies for expungement, and we can support you as you search for this legal option. 

Fighting for expungement can make returning to a sense of normalcy and utilizing certain rights far easier, even after you’ve faced a conviction. 

Who Is Qualified for Expungement in San Diego?

While many individuals may qualify for expungement, ensuring you are eligible is essential. Within California, if you have committed a felony or misdemeanor and have not been incarcerated in California state prison, you’ve fulfilled your probation terms, and you have not been convicted of a crime, this makes you ineligible for expungement. Crimes that may make someone ineligible are those that are serious, violent, or sexual in nature.

If you have spent time in state prison, you may also be eligible for expungement. There was a realignment under Proposition 47, meaning there are some crimes that would no longer warrant time in state prison. If you would not have spent time in California state prison after realignment, you may also qualify for expungement. 

How Much Does Expungement Cost in San Diego?

Costs for expungement will vary depending on the crimes and convictions you are attempting to erase. For example, misdemeanor expungement will generally cost less than those for felonies. Depending on your particular convictions and circumstances, especially those involving controlled substances, you may need to pay more for expungement.

Our expungement lawyers recommend working with an experienced expungement attorney in San Diego for support with your expungements, as one can be valuable in navigating legal processes. A San Diego expungement lawyer from Bernal Law can help you understand precisely what you need to do to expunge parts of your record, all while reducing stress.

How Can a San Diego Expungement Lawyer Help?

Bernal Law can assist you in numerous ways, as our firm has extensive experience in criminal defense law and prosecution. Bernal Law has successfully supported individuals in the following ways:

  • Interviewing witnesses
  • Helping formulate a plea
  • Investigating the prosecutor’s case
  • Gathering evidence
  • Conducting an independent investigation
  • Preparing your case for court
  • Collecting evidence to reduce liability
  • Ensuring that all documents are filed correctly and on time
  • Communicating with the other parties on your behalf
  • Organizing and presenting the evidence
  • Accessing research methods and tools only available to legal professionals
  • Providing an understanding of the legal system and how to make it work for you

We recommend you refrain from representing yourself during your expungement requests, as this can quickly result in less-than-ideal results and mistakes. Bernal Law can help you avoid any issues that might result in problems with your expungement. 

Fight for Your Rights and a Better Future: Contact a Bernal Law Expungement Lawyer Today

If you’re seeking a fresh start by clearing your criminal record in San Diego, Bernal Law is here to assist. Our experience in the expungement process can help restore your reputation and open new opportunities. We’re led by expungement attorney Pedro Bernal, who is fluent in English and Spanish. He was also a Special Assistant United States Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego.

Don’t let your past limit your future – take the first step towards a clean slate today. For a thorough evaluation of your case and professional guidance through the expungement process, contact Bernal Law at (619) 736-9092 or complete our contact form

Embezzlement

Embezzlement

Embezzlement charges fall under the wider umbrella of white-collar crimes. While individuals can be accused of embezzlement if a well-meaning citizen believes an institution’s revenue may be misplaced, accusations can also be false or malicious. These charges can affect your personal and professional life, and a conviction can carry severe penalties. 

Fortunately, you can challenge embezzlement charges with help from an experienced San Diego embezzlement defense attorney. Bernal Law can guide you through the legal process and craft a solid defense on your behalf. Our embezzlement defense lawyers in San Diego are passionate about representing the criminally accused and will support you through every step of the way. Our San Diego principal embezzlement defense attorney, Pedro Bernal, worked as a Deputy District Attorney in the San Diego District Attorney’s Office and prosecuted white-collar crimes at the federal level for nearly a decade before founding his practice. He is prepared to use the full extent of his experience to fight for you.

Defending Against Embezzlement Charges in California

An embezzlement charge can be life-altering, making it critical to defend yourself against these serious accusations. At Bernal Law, our embezzlement defense lawyers have extensive experience defending our clients as they combat these charges. After performing an exhaustive investigation into the incident, we will craft the best possible defense for your situation. Depending on the nature of your charges, your San Diego embezzlement defense attorney may employ one of the following strategies:

Insufficient Evidence

A common defense in embezzlement cases is establishing that there is not enough evidence to prove you committed the theft. Because it is the prosecutor’s job to prove your case beyond a reasonable doubt, your embezzlement defense attorney in San Diego may use the lack of evidence to challenge the prosecution’s case. Generally, this means proving that there is not a detailed enough paper trail to connect you to the crime.

Coercion

Coercion typically refers to a person feeling forced to embezzle the funds. For example, if you’re experiencing blackmail or threats against your employment, you may be under duress. Through this defense, your embezzlement defense attorney in San Diego will work to prove that the crime would not have occurred if you were not under so much situational pressure. 

Entrapment

Entrapment occurs when a government agent influences an innocent person into embezzling funds they would not have stolen of their own choice. In an entrapment defense, your San Diego embezzlement defense attorney must argue you would not have committed a crime of your own free will.  

Absence of Intent

Embezzlement charges depend heavily on your intent to commit the crime. The key to an absence of intent defense is to prove that you believed you were acting in the company’s best interests or that the funds belonged to you. This defense asserts that you did not intend to commit a crime but made a mistake that resulted in the theft. 

Mental Incapacity

If your San Diego, CA embezzlement defense attorney can prove the embezzlement occurred when you were mentally incapacitated, you may have grounds for this defense strategy. For instance, if someone committed the crime while heavily medicated, they may be able to claim incapacity due to their addled judgment. 

How is Embezzlement Defined in California?

In order for the prosecutor to convict you on embezzlement charges, they must prove in court the following elements beyond a shadow of a doubt:

  • The defendant had a relationship with the victim, typically an employee and employer relationship.
  • Within the context of this relationship, the defendant was authorized to handle money or property belonging to the victim.
  • The defendant took possession of the funds, intending to deprive the victim of their assets.

Depending on the facts of your case, the prosecutor can file an embezzlement case as either a misdemeanor or felony crime. This is known as a wobbler offense. The amount of stolen money will likely influence the severity of the charges. If the amount of money taken was less than $950, the crime may be charged as misdemeanor petty theft. On the other hand, if $950 or more was stolen, the defendant may face felony grand theft charges. 

Your embezzlement defense attorney can evaluate the details surrounding your case to determine the severity of your charges and the potential sentences you may face. Bernal Law will use our vast knowledge of the criminal justice system to do everything in our power to reduce your charges and penalties. 

Get in Touch With an Experienced San Diego, CA Embezzlement Defense Attorney at Bernal Law

Bernal Law is ready to help you with all of your legal needs as you navigate this challenging process. Our lead embezzlement defense attorney, Pedro Bernal, has extensive experience prosecuting and defending against white-collar charges and is ready to apply his expertise to your unique case. Attorney Bernal is fluent in both English and Spanish and will work with you to tailor his services to your specific situation.

Schedule a free consultation to discuss your case today by calling (619) 736-9092 or completing our online contact form.

Drug Crimes Icon

Drug Crimes

Drug Crimes

Today’s prison population is flooded with non-violent citizens that have been convicted of drug crimes. It’s clear that the war on drugs did not work as intended and has instead sent a lot of people to jail for minor drug offenses. If you have been convicted of a drug conviction, this charge on your record can have a major impact on every facet of your life including your freedom, finances, health, relationships, ability to get a job in the future, and education. 

If you have been charged with a drug crime, it is recommended that you immediately contact one of our experienced San Diego drug crimes lawyers to discuss your case. At Bernal Law, San Diego drug crimes attorney Pedro Bernal, Esq. is skilled, determined, and ready to fight for your freedom. 

Drug Crime Statistics in San Diego

San Diego’s close proximity to the border creates a much tougher stance on drug charges.

This means the type of drug, the amount found, and whether you were using, distributing, or manufacturing, are factors the District Attorney will consider when determining which charges to file. Because many drug crimes are considered wobblers, the D.A. will make a determination whether to charge you with a felony or a misdemeanor. Unfortunately in many cases, the prosecutor will choose felony charges. 

Though there is not much data available about specific drug crime statistics in San Diego, much can be inferred from the increasing number of drug busts. In general, slightly more than 16% of all arrests in California can be attributed to drugs. Though Proposition 64 helped to curtail thousands of drug arrests across the states, overall arrests for drug charges still remain steady. 

Types of Drug Crimes

Every drug crime is not the same. Some can lead to extensive jail sentences and high fines. The most common types of drug crimes charged in San Diego include drug possession, drug possession with intent to sell, drug trafficking, and manufacturing a controlled substance. Learn more about each below. 

  • Drug Possession: Drug possession can be charged as an infraction, misdemeanor, or felony depending on how much you have on you and what type of drug it is. Types of drug possession charges can fall under three categories: actual possession, constructive possession, and joint possession.
  • Drug Possession With Intent to Sell: If you possess illegal drugs in amounts that indicate an intent to sell, it can lead to felony charges and harsh penalties. Convictions for possession with intent to sell require that the defendant was aware of the drugs, knew they were illegal, owned a substantial amount, and intended to sell. 
  • Drug Trafficking: Defendants that are suspected of importing/exporting drugs or transporting drugs across state lines can be charged with drug trafficking
  • Manufacturing a Controlled Substance: Manufacturing a controlled substance without appropriate authorizations can result in criminal charges. Charges can lead to long prison terms and hefty fines. 

Penalties for drug crimes vary depending on the schedule of the drug, type of drug crime committed, and previous criminal history. No matter the case, drug charges can be serious. If you are facing charges, it is recommended that you contact our experienced San Diego drug crimes attorneys to discuss your case. 

Penalties for California Drug Crimes

The consequences for different drug crimes can range from an infraction to serious prison time. In most cases, those charged with intent to sell, trafficking, or distribution are facing felony charges, high fines, and long prison sentences. Some penalties for drug crimes include the following:

  • Possession could be charged as low as an infraction, with no jail time and a $100 fine, or as high as a misdemeanor with up to six months in jail and up to a $500 fine.
  • Possession with intent to distribute is a felony charge, which could bring 16 months to three years of incarceration in the event of a conviction.
  • Sale or delivery of an illegal drug is a felony, and the penalties depend on the age of the seller as well as the age of who the drugs were sold to. Penalties range from two years to seven years of imprisonment.
  • Cultivation of a drug (any amount) will be charged as a felony, and can bring 16 months to three years of incarceration in the event of a conviction.
  • The chemical manufacture of hash and concentrates can result in a sentence of three to seven years in prison and a fine as large as $50,000.
  • The unauthorized manufacture of hash and concentrates can result in 16 months to three years of incarceration and up to a $500 fine.
  • Vehicles and other property may be seized for controlled substance violations and there may be a suspension of driving privileges.
  • Using a minor in the unlawful sale or transport of marijuana is a felony punishable by 3-7 years imprisonment.
  • A gift or mere transportation of 28.5 grams or less of marijuana will be charged as a misdemeanor, and is punishable by a fine as large as $100.
  • While there is no penalty for the simple possession of marijuana paraphernalia, delivery of marijuana paraphernalia by an individual 18 or older to a minor at least three years their minor is a misdemeanor. Penalties could include up to a year imprisonment and/or a fine as large as $1,000.
  • Under California Penal Code § 1000, probation may be available for some marijuana offenses, however, the offender must participate in education or treatment as determined by the court.

To get a full understanding of the different drug penalties you may be facing, contact Bernal Law today.

What Are the Different Schedules of Drugs?

Penalties for drug possession will depend heavily on the schedule of drug involved:

Schedule I Drugs

Drugs that fall under Schedule I include:

  • Mescaline
  • Marijuana (In April 2015, a federal judge in California declined to remove marijuana from this list of most dangerous drugs)
  • Heroin
  • LSD

Schedule I drugs are considered to have the highest dangers, with a significant threat of addiction and no valid medical use. 

Schedule II Drugs

Some Schedule II drugs include:

  • Amphetamine
  • Methamphetamine
  • Opium
  • Cocaine
  • Methadone

Schedule II drugs have an elevated risk of abuse or addiction, but might possibly have a valid medical use as well. 

Schedule III Drugs

Schedule III drugs can include:

  • Testosterone
  • Ketamine
  • Depressants
  • Anabolic steroids

Schedule III drugs are not as risky as Schedule II drugs, but are still considered to have at least a moderate risk of abuse. 

Schedule IV Drugs

Schedule IV drugs include:

  • Prescription drugs
  • Sedatives
  • Tranquilizers
  • Clonazepam

Schedule IV drugs are considered to have only a slight risk of abuse or dependency and have a number of accepted medical uses. 

Schedule V Drugs

Schedule V drugs are those such as Tylenol with codeine. They have a relatively minor risk of dependency.

Possession of a drug for personal use will be charged according to the schedule of drug as well as the amount.

Potential Defenses to Your Drug Charges

The defense used in your particular case will depend on the specific circumstances. However, some of the more commonly used defenses include:

  • Failure on the part of the police to comply with legal search and seizure rules
  • An argument that the drugs either did not belong to you or you had no knowledge they were in your home or vehicle
  • Mistakes made once the drugs are in the crime lab
  • Missing drugs (seized drugs can be transferred several times before ending up in an evidence locker)
  • The drugs were planted (this is very difficult to prove, as an officer’s word carries significant weight)
  • Entrapment

Your San Diego drug crimes lawyer will investigate your case and gather evidence in order to determine the best course of action for your defense.

Contact a San Diego Drug Crimes Lawyer Today

Since San Diego is so close to the border, drug crimes are particularly scrutinized. The types of drugs in your possession, the amount, and what you were doing with the drugs will have a profound impact on the charges filed against you. No matter the circumstance, it is typically in your best interest to hire a proven San Diego drug crimes attorney to handle your case. They can increase the likelihood of your case being dismissed, an acquittal, decreased charges, and/or lessened prison time. 

If you have been charged with a drug crime in San Diego, do not wait until the prosecution has already mounted a significant case against you. Contact Bernal Law at (619) 736-9092 or fill out our contact form to discuss the details of your case today. San Diego drug crimes attorney Pedro Bernal, Esq. also speaks both Spanish and English. 

Domestic Violence Icon

Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence

Each year, there are more than 12 million victims of domestic violence. However, it is widely speculated that there are many more instances of domestic violence that are prevalent but underreported. San Diego’s domestic violence statistics are similar to that of much of the country. 

Domestic violence cases are typically not simple. Each reported incident is unique. In many cases, charges are filed prematurely or without a reason. If you are currently facing domestic violence charges, it is in your best interest to contact an experienced San Diego domestic violence lawyer as soon as possible. At Bernal Law, we are dedicated to protecting our clients’ legal rights. Contact us or give us a call to discuss your case today. Learn more about San Diego domestic violence below. 

Types of Domestic Violence in San Diego

Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one (or both) partners to obtain or maintain control over the other partner. Various forms of abuse that are included in the definition of domestic violence to include:

  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Economic abuse
  • Psychological abuse
  • Verbal threats
  • Stalking
  • Cyberstalking

Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence, including spouses, intimate partners (dating), family members (related by blood or marriage), children, and roommates. In many cases, courts will issue protective orders for those that are suspected of being in imminent danger. This can cause displacement, even for those that are wrongly accused. 

Domestic violence can include several behaviors, often characterized by violent and aggressive actions against another individual. Domestic violence may also include coercion, threats, intimidation, or other forms of systemized control.

Who Is Protected by Domestic Violence Laws?

According to California law, within Family Code Section 6211, several parties are protected against domestic violence. These individuals can include any of the following:

  • Spouse, former or current
  • Domestic partner
  • Someone you are dating
  • Someone you’ve previously dated
  • Your child
  • Another individual you’ve had a child with
  • Someone who lives with you
  • An individual who previously lived with you
  • Another person related to you by blood
  • Someone related to you by marriage

You may only be convicted of domestic violence if you are found guilty of acting against one or more of these individuals. For more information about defenses and arguments you can utilize in your case, contact our San Diego domestic violence lawyers for valuable support.

What Does Domestic Assault Mean?

A person that intentionally causes physical injury to another person commits an assault. Domestic assault occurs when a person physically harms or threatens to harm a family member or another person living with them. Domestic assault charges can be enhanced if there are previous convictions of domestic violence in a defendant’s past. 

What Are The Laws on Domestic Violence?

In the state of California, it is illegal to willfully inflict corporal injury resulting in traumatic condition or visible physical injury upon a spouse, fellow parent, or cohabitant (Penal Code 273.5 – Corporal Injury to Spouse).  

The more commonly charged offense is Penal Code 243 – Domestic Battery. This includes acts of domestic abuse that do not produce a visible physical injury. Additionally, there are many other related offenses that stem from domestic violence. 

Understanding and applying all domestic violence laws by yourself can be difficult and leave you vulnerable to an unfavorable ruling. Trust your freedom with a proven San Diego domestic violence lawyer. 

Penalties For Domestic Violence

Domestic violence charges (PC 273.5) are considered “wobbler offenses.” They can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the details of the case and prior criminal records. If charged as a misdemeanor, defendants potentially face up to one year in jail, fines as high as $6,000, and probation. If charged as a felony, punishment can include up to four years in prison and up to $6,000 in fines.  

Penal Code 243(e) can only be charged as a misdemeanor. Those convicted face a maximum of a one-year jail sentence and fines no greater than $2,000. If convicted of any charges stemming from domestic violence, defendants can lose their freedom, a lot of money, and their family.  

What If I Am a First-Time Offender?

In most cases, accusations of domestic violence are taken seriously and prosecuted viciously. However, if you are convicted without prior offenses on your record, a judge may rule in favor of a lighter sentence or probation only. 

The outcome will largely depend on the severity of injuries caused, criminal history, and the ability of your San Diego domestic violence attorney to advocate for your rights, negotiate with the prosecution, and present a compelling argument to the court. 

Can My Domestic Violence Case Be Dismissed?

No reputable San Diego domestic violence lawyer will guarantee that your case will be dismissed. However, there are instances that warrant the dismissal of charges if there is not sufficient evidence to substantiate the claims. Those charged with domestic violence in San Diego have the right to fight the charges. An experienced San Diego domestic violence attorney can substantially increase your chances of having charges reduced or dropped.  

Get Valuable Support and Protect Your Rights With Help From Bernal Law

If you have been charged with domestic violence in San Diego, we strongly encourage you to work with a San Diego domestic violence lawyer for support. A lawyer from Bernal Law, including the talented and dedicated Attorney Pedro Bernal, is a great choice to protect your rights. Attorney Bernal was a former prosecutor, so he knows precisely what strategies the plaintiff side will use against you. He’s also fluent in English and Spanish, so you can feel comfortable speaking with him.

If you have any questions or concerns, please get in touch with us immediately. When you connect with us, we can provide answers, bring clarity to any of your concerns, and schedule a consultation with a qualified attorney for you. You can reach us when you call (619) 736-9092 or complete our contact form at your earliest convenience.

Violent Crimes Icon

Violent Crimes

Violent Crimes

Have you recently been charged with a criminal offense? If so, you know all too well the emotional, psychological, and financial stress that a criminal charge can bring with it. Whether you have been charged with a felony or misdemeanor, convictions can result in jail time, high fines, probation, and a bevy of other consequences.

Criminal defense laws can be complex and confusing. Furthermore, prosecutors are relentless in their pursuit of convictions. Defendants without legal representation are fighting an uphill battle against a seasoned prosecution.

Do not wait until it’s too late to mount a strong defense, contact a top-rated criminal defense attorney in San Diego at Bernal Law today. Learn more about our practice areas below.

Notable Criminal Defense Law Statistics

Criminal laws in the U.S. are strict and sometimes unforgiving. The vast majority of cases end with guilty pleas and never reach trial. The cases that do reach trial are overwhelmingly won by the prosecution. There are many reasons that contribute to these numbers. However, a lot of cases end with an unfavorable ruling due to the defendant’s lack of adequate legal representation. Listed below are a few notable criminal defense statistics to keep in mind.

  • 90 percent of defendants plead guilty in federal cases
  • Only two percent of cases go to trial
  • More than 80 percent of all defendants that go trial are found guilty
  • Roughly eight percent of cases are dismissed
  • Less than one percent of cases are taken to trial and won by defendants

These statistics shed light on the preparedness of the prosecution and the sometimes lack of preparedness by defendants. Though no criminal defense attorney in San Diego can guarantee a favorable outcome in your case, hiring one can substantially increase the likelihood of decreased or dismissed charges.

Criminal Defense Practice Areas

We have the ability, experience, and record of success in many criminal defense practice areas. At Bernal Law, our practice areas include insurance fraud, DUI offenses, worker’s compensation fraud, tax evasion, securities fraud, domestic violence, other violent crimes, and gun crimes. Learn more about each below.

White Collar Crimes

White-collar crimes are non-violent acts that involve deception. These crimes can be committed by businesses or people. Examples of white-collar crime include fraud, embezzlement, extortion, forgery, credit card fraud, computer hacking, mail fraud, insurance fraud (auto, healthcare, worker’s compensation), securities fraud,  etc. Those convicted of white-collar crimes may face long prison terms, steep fines, and a permanent criminal record.

DUI Offenses

Prosecutors in San Diego aggressively pursue DUI charges. Whether you are charged with a first offense DUI or you have had multiple, it can lead to jail time, probation, license suspension, DUI school, etc. Furthermore, DUI convictions may prohibit you from holding certain jobs and/or titles. If you have been charged with a DUI, it is recommended that you contact a proven violent crime lawyer in San Diego as soon as possible.

Tax Evasion

If you are intentionally underpaying the IRS or engaging in tax fraud, you may face tax evasion charges. However, the IRS must prove that your actions were intentional. Examples of tax evasion include:

  • Intentional understatements of income
  • Failure to file tax returns
  • Inadequate records
  • Not making required tax payments
  • Concealment of taxable assets
  • Failure to cooperate with tax authorities

If the IRS suspects you of tax evasion or you have been charged with tax evasion, it is not a good idea to fight it without the help of an experienced criminal defense lawyer in San Diego. Tax evasion is taken seriously. Those convicted face the potential of prison time, probation, restitution payments, and fines.

Violent Crimes

Defendants charged with violent crimes face the potential of stiff penalties if convicted. In most cases, long prison terms are difficult to avoid. However, a skillful criminal defense attorney in San Diego can certainly increase your chances of a favorable outcome. At Bernal Law, we have experience handling complex violent crime cases. A few examples of violent crimes charges include:

  • Assault with a deadly weapon
  • Manslaughter
  • Sexual assault
  • Kidnapping
  • Assault and battery
  • Home invasions
  • Homicide
  • Domestic Violence

Gun Crimes

Gun crimes can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. If you are convicted of certain crimes, you may be facing prison (up to life), probation, and a permanent criminal record. Gun crimes can include illegal possession of a firearm, carrying a concealed firearm, possessing a firearm while being a felon, illegal sale of firearms, owning an unregistered gun, etc.

Drug Charges

The most common types of drug charges include illegal possession, possession with an intent to sell, drug trafficking, and manufacturing a controlled substance. The extent and type of charges levied against those of drug crimes will depend on the schedule of the drug, amount, and what their intent was. Penalties can include jail time, probation, license suspension, heavy fines, etc.

Do I Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer in San Diego?

You have the right to represent yourself or seek the counsel of a court-appointed lawyer. However, self-representation is typically not recommended. Furthermore, a court-appointed criminal defense lawyer in San Diego usually has a heavy caseload and is not able to give every case their full attention.

Working a reputable criminal defense attorney in San Diego is not mandated by law, but it does give you a better chance at reduced charges, dismissal, or lighter punishments.

Contact Bernal Law Today

Defense attorney Pedro Bernal spent nearly a decade as a prosecutor. At Bernal Law, we take advantage of that experience when defending our clients against any criminal charges. If you are currently being charged with a criminal offense or are being investigated, it is in your best interest to work with a proven violent crimes lawyer in San Diego. We are dedicated to fighting for our client’s rights and liberties.

Do not risk your freedom by representing yourself or gambling on an unproven attorney. Contact us today to schedule your no-obligation, free initial consultation.

Click on the page list to learn more about these crimes and remember that this is only a partial list of crimes that people can be charged with. If you’re charged with a violent crime, call the offices of Pedro Bernal Law today!

DUI Offenses Icon

DUI Offenses

DUI Offenses

After being arrested for drunk driving, individuals often find themselves feeling overwhelmed and defeated. Many believe that their own testimony will hold little weight against the account provided by the arresting officer. However, in reality, driving under the influence (DUI) cases are rarely as straightforward as they seem.

California has strict DUI laws in place, and penalties for DUI convictions can be severe. Fortunately, not all DUI charges turn into actual convictions. What typically separates a strong DUI defense from a weak defense is the San Diego DUI lawyer you choose to work with. If you have been charged with a DUI offense in San Diego, don’t gamble with your freedom – partner with an experienced Bernal Law DUI defense attorney today.

What You Should Know About DUI Laws in San Diego

The consequences of driving under the influence can be devastating, not just for the driver but also for their family members and any accident victims. Because of this, California’s DUI laws are tough and stringent.

Like many states, the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit in California is 0.08 percent. However, there is a zero-tolerance policy in place for individuals under the age of 21, who must abide by a BAC limit of 0.02 percent. California also levies enhanced penalties for drivers with a BAC above 0.16 percent.

Interpreting DUI laws, filing effective motions, and scrutinizing police procedures can all be difficult without the help of an experienced DUI lawyer in San Diego.

Potential Penalties for DUI Convictions in San Diego, California

Penalties for a DUI in San Diego can be severe, even for first-time offenders. Not only can a DUI conviction put your freedom in jeopardy, but it can also affect many other areas of your life, such as your employment opportunities and reputation.

First Offense

A first-offense DUI that doesn’t involve bodily injury is punishable by:

  • Up to $3,600 in fines, assessments, and fees
  • Up to six months in jail
  • Three to five years of probation
  • Mandatory license suspension
  • Completion of an alcohol education program

Furthermore, you will be required to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle for at least six months at your own expense.

Second Offense

A second offense DUI in San Diego could result in:

  • Up to one year in jail
  • Up to $4,000 in fines, penalties, and assessments
  • Two-year license suspension
  • Three to five years of probation
  • DUI school

A second offense also requires a mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device for one year. 

Third Offense

A third DUI offense can incur:

  • Up to $18,000 in fines, fees, and assessments
  • Up to one year in jail or 16 months in prison
  • Three-year license suspension
  • Up to five years of probation
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device for two years

A third offense also can result in up to 30 months of DUI school.

How A San Diego Attorney Can Help If You Have Been Accused of Drinking and Driving

Although partnering with a DUI lawyer in San Diego is not required, representing yourself is not recommended. The prosecution is well-trained, has many resources, and is motivated to win a conviction. A Bernal Law DUI attorney in San Diego can potentially help to have charges reduced or dismissed, negotiate with the prosecution, and thoroughly scrutinize the strength of evidence against you.

While no reputable DUI attorney in San Diego can guarantee that your case will be dismissed or charges will be reduced, hiring a San Diego DUI lawyer can significantly increase your chances of getting a more favorable outcome. Many times, charges are brought about that lack sufficient evidence or where the defendant’s rights have been violated in order to obtain evidence.

When you choose Bernal Law for your DUI case in San Diego, you will have an experienced DUI attorney in San Diego on your side who will thoroughly dissect every aspect of your case and fight for your rights. At our firm, we help people accused of DUI by:

Providing Legal Knowledge

At Bernal Law, we possess a deep understanding of the complex DUI laws and regulations in San Diego. We can help you comprehend the charges you are facing, potential consequences, and available options.

Thoroughly Evaluating Your Case

We will thoroughly review the details of your case, including the circumstances of your arrest, the evidence against you, and any procedural errors that might have occurred. This detailed evaluation helps identify potential weaknesses and strengths in your case.

Utilizing Strong Defense Strategies

Bernal Law is well-versed in a range of defense strategies that could be applicable to your situation. We can challenge the validity of field sobriety tests, breathalyzer results, and the legality of the traffic stop itself. This proficiency is crucial in building a strong defense.

Guiding You Through The Legal Process

Navigating the legal system can be overwhelming, but we will guide you through every step of the process. From filling out paperwork to representing you in court, we confirm all legal procedures are followed correctly.

Negotiating For You

In some cases, we can negotiate with the prosecution to potentially reduce charges or penalties. We might be able to secure a plea bargain or explore alternative sentencing options such as rehabilitation programs.

Protecting Your Rights

Bernal Law is dedicated to safeguarding your rights throughout the legal process. We will make sure law enforcement and the prosecution adhere to proper procedures and respect your constitutional rights.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About DUIs in San Diego

Should I Take a Breathalyzer?

Under implied consent laws, you have already agreed to take a breathalyzer if the police suspect you of driving under the influence. In most circumstances, it is recommended that you take a breathalyzer. If you refuse, your license will be automatically suspended for one year. Furthermore, the police may still force a blood draw with a warrant.

What is “Implied Consent”?

Every person with a driver’s license in California has already given their consent to a breathalyzer. However, implied consent laws only apply to chemical blood tests. Field sobriety tests do not have to be taken. If requested to do so, it is within your rights to politely decline.

Can I Avoid a License Suspension?

If convicted of a DUI, no, you cannot avoid a license suspension. However, a DUI attorney in San Diego can significantly increase the likelihood of your charges being reduced or dismissed. They can also negotiate for lighter sentencing. License suspensions can last for six months up to three years, or even more in extraordinary situations.

How Can I Get My License Back?

Most DUI license suspensions require a “hard suspension” period that typically lasts for 30 days but can be as long as 90 days. During this time, you cannot apply for a restricted license. However, afterward, eligible cases can apply to have their license reinstated on a restricted basis. Those with a restricted license are typically limited to driving to school, work, medical appointments, and any other destinations deemed necessary.

Schedule Your Free, No-Obligation Consultation with a San Diego DUI Attorney

As a Former Deputy District Attorney, Pedro Bernal, Esq. has handled hundreds of criminal cases in California. For almost a decade, he learned the strategies used by prosecutors. Today, he brings that knowledge and experience to your side.

If you were arrested for DUI in San Diego, do not wait until the prosecution has had months to build a case against you. Contact Bernal Law today for your free, no-obligation consultation. Call (619) 736-9092 or reach out to us online to get started. DUI defense Attorney Bernal is also fluent in both English and Spanish.

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White Collar Crimes

White Collar Crimes

White collar crime is generally considered to be a non-violent act which involves some sort of deception. These crimes are most often committed by a business person or, in some cases, a public official. The evidence of these crimes typically include a paper trail which investigators use to try and build a case against the accused. Law enforcement agencies aggressively investigate these allegations. San Diego white collar crimes lawyer Pedro Bernal has both prosecuted and defended white-collar crimes and understands what needs to go into a successful defense for these charges. If you’ve been accused of a white-collar crime, call us today for a free consultation.

Different Types of White Collar Crime Accusations

We defend those accused of any white collar crime including:

  • Fraud
  • Extortion
  • Violations of antitrust laws
  • Internet fraud
  • Money laundering
  • Mail fraud
  • Embezzlement
  • Insurance Fraud
  • Credit card fraud
  • Insider trading
  • Computer hacking
  • Insurance fraud
  • Forgery
  • Identity theft
  • Securities fraud
  • Violations of environment law
  • Counterfeiting
  • Bankruptcy fraud

While white collar crimes may not rise to the level of more violent criminal acts, the repercussions for a conviction can be extremely far-reaching. The burden on the state of California is to prove you had intent to commit the crime you have been charged with. Despite the fact you may have benefitted financially from the crime, the state must show beyond a reasonable doubt there was intent on your part to commit the crime.

Most Common Types of White Collar Crime Allegations

Embezzlement

Embezzlement is, far and away, the most common form of white collar crime, and is defined under California law as taking property which did not belong to you, but was entrusted to your care. The charges of embezzlement must show the owner of the property in question trusted you because you were:

  • An employee,
  • Given temporary possession of the property, or
  • You were a trustee, board member or principal of an organization who was given the right to manage the money or property

Under Penal Code §503, embezzlement charges may be brought against those who took large amounts of money as well as those who took relatively minor amounts of money.
One point to remember is that if you took money or property with every intention of giving it back, you could still be found guilty of embezzlement. Perhaps you are the person who makes cash deposits in your business and you have recently had a financial setback. You “borrow” a few hundred dollars from the deposit, fully intending to repay the money as soon as you receive your next paycheck.
Your intent to repay the money will not help you if charged with embezzlement.

Penalties for Embezzlement

Under California law, embezzlement is punished as a grand theft or petty theft.

Grand Theft Embezzlement

Grand theft will apply if the property taken is:

  • Worth more than $950,
  • Firearm, or
  • An automobile

Penalties for a conviction of misdemeanor grand theft embezzlement can be as much as a year behind bars in a county jail.
Penalties for a conviction of felony grand theft embezzlement can bring up to three years in jail.

Petty Theft Embezzlement

When the property taken is worth less than $950—and does not include a firearm or an automobile—a conviction for the misdemeanor petty theft can result in up to six months in county jail.

Fines for Embezzlement

Fines can range as high as $10,000 for the most serious type of felony grand theft embezzlement.

An embezzlement conviction can devastate your personal and professional life for a very long time, making it difficult to secure employment, rent a home, secure a government student loan or obtain a professional license. Gathering the right evidence and speaking to the right people are the key components in a solid embezzlement defense. An experienced San Diego white collar crimes lawyer can help ensure the true story emerges, while protecting your rights and your future.

Fraud

When deliberate deception is used in order to secure unfair or unlawful gain, fraud may be charged under California Penal Code §470-483.5. Many white collar crimes involve fraud; a person may defraud another person or corporation with the intent of securing goods, services or money at a significantly reduced cost, or by selling goods or service for significantly more than they are worth.

Charges of fraud can also include banking fraud, check fraud, mail fraud, tax fraud, mortgage fraud, or any crime which includes obtaining a document or license using false pretenses. In some cases, fraud is charged along with charges of embezzlement.

Penalties for Fraud

A conviction for fraud can result in high fines and significant jail or prison sentences. The facts surrounding the case will determine whether the fraud is charged as a misdemeanor or felony. In some cases fraud offenses may be charged as a federal crime, meaning you could be prosecuted in state as well as federal court, and may be subjected to additional penalties.

Forgery

Creating a falsified version of a government-issued document or a legally binding business contract, or printing U.S. currency outside the Federal Reserve can result in charges of forgery. Charges of fraud are governed by California Penal Code §470(a). If you are accused of signing your boss or supervisor’s name to a check, then cashing it and keeping the money, you could be charged with forgery and embezzlement.

Penalties for Forgery

Forgery charges under California law are “wobblers,” meaning you could be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances surrounding the charges. A conviction for a misdemeanor forgery charge can result in up to a year in county jail, while a conviction for a felony forgery charge can result in up to three years in county jail as well as significant fines.

Identity Theft

California Penal Code §530.5 addresses identity theft. In 2014, identity theft reached epidemic levels, with the FTC recording 332,646 identity theft complaints. All types of fraud combined, including identity theft, cost the American public more than $1.7 billion in 2014, or an average amount of $2,000 per incident.

Identity theft is the use of someone else’s personal information, with a goal of conducting a fraudulent act. This can include setting up credit cards in someone else’s name, accessing another person’s bank accounts or credit information with a goal of making purchases (often done online), leaving the other person responsible for the charges. Identity theft can also include using another’s social security number, birth certificate or other personal, identifying information.

While everyone is vulnerable to identity theft, children and the elderly are targeted most often. States with the largest populations—such as California—are the most prone to identity theft, and, in fact, California reports more incidents of identity theft than almost any other state.

Penalties for Identify Theft

Identity theft is also a wobbler in the state of California, and can be punished as a misdemeanor or a felony. A felony identity theft conviction can result in a maximum fine of $10,000 and/or up to three years in county jail. A misdemeanor identity theft conviction can result in a maximum fine of $1,000 and/or up to a year in county jail.

Potential Defenses for White Collar Crimes

Your San Diego white collar crimes lawyer will be able to tailor your defense to the specific crime and the circumstances surrounding the crime.

For the crime of identity theft, your attorney may be able to claim you did not use the information obtained for any type of unlawful purpose, you had no criminal intent, or you are actually innocent and are the victim of either false accusations or mistaken identity.

For the charge of embezzlement, your white collar crimes lawyer may be able to claim you lacked criminal intent, or that you believed, in good faith, you had a right to the property or money taken. If you believed you had a right to the money or property taken, then it will have to be shown you made no attempt to cover up the fact you took the money or property, and that it was not taken because you believed you were owed a debt by the owner.

“Intent” to commit a criminal act can be difficult to prove; what may seem to be embezzlement could simply be a mistake made on your part.

While false accusations occur in many alleged crimes, embezzlement cases are particularly prone to false accusations. This is due to the fact that in most embezzlement charges, the “victim” had either a personal or a business relationship with the accused. The “victim” may also be seeking to lay the blame on another person after suffering some type of financial loss, or could be engaging in an act of revenge for a real or imagined slight.

Tax Evasion Icon

Tax Evasion

Tax Evasion

Tax evasion is an intentional conduct where a person or a company purposefully underpays taxes or engages in fraud when dealing with taxes.
Mistakes and carelessness are not considered tax evasion. In order to be convicted for tax evasion, the IRS must know that you are intentionally and purposefully trying to underpay your taxes or trying to hide your taxable assets.

What Are Some Examples of Tax Evasion?

Tax evasion usually involves a intentional wrongdoing.
Mere negligence or carelessness that causes tax errors is not tax evasion. The IRS usually investigates to determine whether tax evasion has been committed.
Some examples of tax fraud include:

  • Intentional understatements of income
  • Providing inadequate records
  • Failure to file tax returns
  • Inconsistent explanations of tax records
  • Failure to cooperate with tax authorities
  • Engaging in illegal tax activities and fraud
  • Dealing in cash to avoid being taxed
  • Failure to make required tax payments
  • Concealment of taxable assets

Other possible tax evasion conduct is lying, concealing, or delaying tactics that are designed to mislead the IRS agents in their investigation after you have been red flagged.

What Are Possible Defenses If I Am Accused of Tax Evasion?

Tax evasion is a crime, so all the defenses available for other crimes can be used. Common defenses include:

  • Insufficient evidence – To be convicted of tax evasion, the prosecution must generally show that you willfully intended not to pay your taxes.
    For example, if you can prove that your failure to file a tax return was because of forgetfulness that may be enough to dismiss a tax evasion charge because of insufficient evidence.
    Another way is to challenge the IRS claiming that they have made an error in calculating your taxes.
  • Statute of limitations – There is a statute of limitation (a time limit) to file a charge of tax evasion.
    Once this time period passes, the IRS cannot file a tax evasion suit even if they have sufficient evidence.
    In general, the IRS must file charges within six years of the alleged tax evasion.
  • Entrapment – Entrapment occurs when the government compels an innocent person to commit a crime they would have otherwise not committed.
    However, simply providing an opportunity to commit a crime will not be considered entrapment.
    If you think that you were entrapped to commit tax evasion, please speak to an experienced attorney to find out what you can do.
  • Mistake – In using this defense, there is a clear distinction.  If you are mistaken about what day taxes are due or what exactly needs to be reported, then you may have a mistake defense.
    However, simply claiming that you didn’t know you needed to file taxes will not be a valid.
    This is a fine line to draw, and an attorney would be able to explain to you which type of mistake you committed.
  • Insanity – Insanity is always a possible defense, but it is a “tough sell” in any court for any crime.
    This defense allows you to claim you were either insane at the time of the offense or during trial.
    The success rate of an insanity defense is low and it would most likely be ineffective in tax evasion cases.
  • Intentional Conduct: The government must prove that the taxpayer intended to evade the taxes and knew of the possible consequences of his or her wrongdoing.

What Are The Criminal Penalties For Tax Evasion?

Since many taxes are considered federal taxes, federal agencies (like the IRS) are commonly in charge of prosecuting tax evasion cases rather than law enforcement.
Individual federal law govern each tax evasion offense. Additionally each state might have their own tax evasion laws and penalties.

  • Prison: Tax evasion may lead to imprisonment for a term of up to five years.
    The term may be enhanced if their was multiple counts or if it was a repeated offense
  • Fines: Violating federal tax laws can result into substantial fines. A conviction for tax evasion can result up to $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for corporations.
    Additional fines can be imposed by the courts.
  • Restitution: Tax fraud cases also can lead to court orders requiring defendant to pay for any restitution that they benefited from.
  • Probation: Courts may sentence a person convicted for tax evasion to probation.
    Probation sentences usually last at least 1-3 years.
    The probation period may be extended if the defendant fails to comply with the probation terms and conditions.

How Likely Will Any of These Defenses Work?

Tax evasion defenses can be used when there is insufficient evidence of intentional or purposeful conduct.
The IRS must prove that the defendant knew their wrongdoing and intentionally misreported their taxes or tried to evade taxes.
Mere mistakes and carelessness cannot convict someone with tax evasion.
Other possible defenses for tax evasion may be that the taxpayer honestly believed that he is not evading or hiding his taxable income because of some misunderstanding of the law.
To use this defenses, the taxpayer must show proof of reliance in where they relied on the information such as an accountant or lawyer.

Do I Need a San Diego Tax Evasion Lawyer?

Tax evasion and tax fraud is a very serious matter. If you have been contacted by the IRS for suspicion of tax evasion or fraud or have been charged with a tax evasion crime, you need to speak to a San Diego tax evasion lawyer.
Tax evasion charges must be proved by the IRS and they must provide clear evidence that you knowingly and purposefully tried to evade taxes.
Our San Diego tax evasion lawyer, Pedro Bernal will be able to assist you on your rights and determine whether you have any valid defenses.

Insurance Fraud Icon

Insurance Fraud

Insurance Fraud

Being charged with insurance fraud means that the prosecutor is accusing you of making a fraudulent (false) act to get a certain outcome from an insurance company.  Most insurance fraud cases involve car insurance or health insurance, although other types of insurance can be involved.
Fighting an insurance fraud charge can be difficult. However, if you hire a San Diego insurance fraud lawyer with experience, you can often achieve a better outcome for yourself.

Common Types of Insurance Fraud

Auto Insurance Fraud

Penal Code section 548 to 551

Automobile insurance fraud essentially involves a knowingly false statement related to a car that was made with the intent to receive insurance payment.
According to California law, a person commits automobile insurance fraud when he or she:

  • Makes a false claim to an insurance company regarding a car-related incident (e.g., damage or theft of an insured car).
  • Damages or abandons a vehicle with the intent to collect insurance money for the vehicle.
  • Makes two insurance claims for the same single incident.
  • Participates or creates an accident to obtain insurance money.
  • Knowingly presents a false statement to an insurance company.

The most common type of car insurance fraud involves the acts listed above, although there are other rarer forms of insurance fraud that can be charged as well.
The following examples demonstrate some of the ways a person can commit insurance fraud:

  • Abandoning your car and then telling the insurance company that the car was stolen.
  • Telling the insurance company you got into an accident when really you did not.
  • Getting in an accident with minor damage but claiming that you spent more money on repairs than you actually did.
  • Slamming on the breaks in the highway in front of an expensive car for the purpose of getting a payout from the other driver’s insurance.

Punishment for auto insurance fraud can involve state prison time, restitution of payment, probation, and fines.  San Diego prosecutors usually charge these car insurance cases as felonies.
Defending yourself from car insurance fraud charges frequently involves showing how the prosecutor cannot prove that you committed the crime.
As discussed in the other sections, this can involve legal motions to suppress evidence or dismiss charges, presentation of appropriate legal defenses, and advocacy before and during trial.

Health Care Insurance Fraud – Penal Code 550

Healthcare fraud involves a false statement or deceptive acts done with the intention of receiving payment from a healthcare company or government agency.
Healthcare fraud frequently involves private insurance companies, but with the widespread use of Medicare and Medicaid, the government can be the one that is defrauded.

Common examples of healthcare fraud can involve:

  • billing for a service that was not performed
  • overcharging the insurance company or government for service
  • submitting multiple claims for a single incident

Healthcare providers are most frequently the target of healthcare fraud charges. However, San Diego prosecutors sometimes charge alleged patients of the healthcare provider if they believe the patients were involved in the fraudulent activity.
Since felony charges are usually filed, penalties can include state prison time as well as other serious sanctions.

Workers’ Compensation Insurance Fraud – Penal Code 549-550

Workers’ Compensation fraud involves receiving payment or intending to receive payment related to a Workers’ Compensation claim.
Workers’ Compensation involves the system of insurance that pays for injuries or disabilities happening in the workplace.
Under California law, Workers’ Compensation fraud can be committed by:

  • Knowingly making a false statement in order for workers’ compensation benefits to be granted or denied.
  • Encouraging another person to make a false statement related to Workers’ Compensation.
  • Submitting a claim for healthcare treatment for an actual injury, when the injury was not actually treated by a healthcare professional.
  • Submitting multiple claims for the same treatment in the same injury

Some examples of Workers’ Compensation fraud can include

  • claiming that you were injured at work when really you were not injured.
  • claiming you were injured at work when really you received the injury in a non-work setting.
  • submitting a bill for healthcare treatment for an injury, when you did not actually receive that treatment, even if the injury is legitimate.

These types of claims frequently involve a large amount of money, which frequently results in the insurance fraud claims being charged as felonies.  While prosecutors sometimes offer non-jail or non-prison plea deals, conviction for workers’ compensation insurance fraud can result in significant prison time.
Defending against workers’ compensation insurance fraud charges can be difficult.  However, a San Diego insurance fraud lawyer with experience can make a large difference.  Some of the tactics used to fight these charges can include legal motions to suppress evidence or dismiss charges, the presentation of valid legal defenses to the crime, and strong advocacy before and during a trial.

Other Cases of Insurance Fraud (including Property, Fire, and Life Insurance)

Other cases of insurance fraud follow a similar pattern.
The element in common they all have is an intent to present false facts to an insurance company for monetary or other gains.
Examples of other general types of insurance fraud include filing a false claim about property that was supposedly damaged, a house they may have burned, a life insurance policy where the medical paperwork submitted was fake, or any other false statement made with the intention of getting a gain from an insurance company.

California Penal Code sections 448 to 451 cover most instances of insurance fraud.
Insurance fraud crimes in California are charged as felonies in most cases. Therefore, they carry with them the penalties traditionally associated with felonies, including prison time, possible probation, restitution, and fines.

Possible Defense for Your Insurance Fraud Charge

There are a number of valid legal defenses that will prevent a conviction for insurance fraud.

At Bernal Law our experienced San Diego insurance fraud team will argue and prove all valid defenses.
If your San Diego insurance fraud lawyer is successful presenting any of these defenses to the judge or jury, you cannot legally be convicted of insurance fraud.

Legal Defenses to Insurance Fraud:

  • Lack of Knowledge of Falsity — To be guilty of insurance fraud, you must have known that what you were saying/writing was false.
    If you did not know it was false, we can present a strong “lack of knowledge” defense.
    For example, if you wrote something false on the insurance paperwork because someone else told you it was true, and you did not know it was false, we will likely be able to present this defense.
  • Lack of Intention — To be guilty of insurance fraud, you must have intended to submit or communicate the false claim.
    If this was a complete accident (and you did not intend to transmit/communicate the false claim) we will be able to present this defense.
    For example, if we can prove you tried to “save” an electronic draft of your insurance paperwork, but you accidentally pressed “submit” instead, we may be able to argue that you never intended to transmit the false statement to the insurance company.
  • Duress — The duress defense is used if you were forced to do something against your will.
    If someone forced you to commit an act of insurance fraud by making serious threats against you, we could use the duress defense.
    For example, if a violent street gang told you to purposefully drive into a car so that they could claim the insurance money (i.e., a fraudulent “staged” accident), and then threatened to kill your wife if you failed to cooperate, you would have a strong duress defense.
  • Entrapment — The entrapment defense can be used when the criminal idea originated with law enforcement and you were not otherwise inclined to carry out the criminal act.
    If you were pressured or otherwise encouraged to file a fraudulent insurance claim by an agent of law enforcement, this defense could apply to your case.
    For example, if a detective asks you to file a false insurance claim so that the detective can then investigate the insurance company, you will likely be able to present this defense to avoid criminal liability
  • Withdrawal from Conspiracy — If the prosecutor alleges that you conspired with others to commit insurance fraud, you can avoid conviction for the actual insurance fraud if you withdrew from the conspiracy at an early stage.
    You can avoid any conviction if you withdrew before any act occurred that “furthered” the conspiracy.
    You can also avoid conviction on the insurance fraud charges if you withdrew from the conspiracy before the fraud was committed.
  • Mistaken Identity — A mistaken identity defense involves claiming that you did not fill out the fraudulent insurance paperwork or carry out any fraudulent act.  Insurance fraud is a paper-heavy crime.
    There usually are no eyewitnesses.  Therefore, someone else could have committed the insurance fraud but then signed your name on the false document.
    Unless there is video surveillance, witnesses, or other direct evidence that you filled out the fraudulent insurance paperwork, you may have a strong case for mistaken identity.
    If the prosecutor is unable to prove that you personally committed the insurance fraud, we will likely be able to prevent any criminal conviction.
  • Ambiguous Statement — Most types of insurance fraud involve a false statement of some sort. However, if what you wrote or said was truthful but the insurance company or prosecutor simply misinterpreted the statement, we may be able to present this defense regarding the ambiguity of the statement.
Health Insurance Fraud Icon

Health Insurance Fraud

Health Insurance Fraud

In California, workers’ compensation insurance is a no-fault system.
Injured employees need not prove an injury was someone else’s fault in order to receive workers’ compensation benefits for an on-the-job injury.
In addition to medical expenses being covered for injured employees, some injured workers are entitled to recover a portion of lost wages resulting from injury.
Workers’ compensation insurance fraud occurs in simple and complex schemes that often require difficult and lengthy investigations.
Employees may exaggerate or even fabricate injuries. At the other end of the spectrum, white-collar criminals, including doctors and lawyers, entice, pay, and conspire with others to defraud the system by creating false or exaggerated claims, over treating, and over prescribing harmful and addictive drugs. Insurance companies “pick up the tab,” passing the cost onto policyholders, taxpayers and the general public.

What is Workers’ Compensation Fraud?

Workers’ compensation fraud is a California insurance fraud in connection with workers’ compensation benefits.
“Workers’ compensation” is a system of insurance that provides medical care and payments for lost income to workers who are injured on the job. Fraud committed in connection with workers’ compensation insurance can lead to harsh criminal penalties.
Acts that are considered workers’ compensation fraud in California include:

  • Knowingly making or presenting a false or fraudulent material statement for the purpose of either obtaining or denying workers’ compensation benefits;
  • Making a false or fraudulent statement about eligibility for benefits in order to discourage an injured worker from claiming benefits;
  • Knowingly aiding and abetting, or participating in a conspiracy to commit, workers’ compensation fraud
  • Preparing or submitting multiple claims for payment of a health care benefit covered by workers’ compensation insurance, all for the same injury;
  • Submitting a claim for a health care benefit covered by workers’ comp that was not actually used
  • Soliciting, referring or accepting any business from a person, knowing that s/he intends to commit workers’ comp fraud.

Examples

Examples of people who could be charged with California workers’ compensation fraud:

  • A man claims to have debilitating back pain due to a fall down the stairs at his office and collects workers’ comp payments for lost income. In reality his back pain is minor, and he is working a new job under the table while also collecting benefits.
  • An employer lies about the circumstances of an employee’s accident at work in order to prevent that employee from getting workers’ compensation benefits (which would raise the employer’s premium for workers’ comp insurance).
  • A doctor specializes in treating patients injured in the workplace and regularly submits bills to workers’ comp insurance for treatments that the patients did not actually need or receive.

Penalties

Most forms of workers’ compensation fraud are considered “wobblers.” This means that they may be charged as either misdemeanors or felonies under California law.

The potential felony prison sentence for most forms of workers’ compensation fraud is two (2), three (3) or five (5) years. Felony fines can go up to one hundred fifty thousand dollars ($150,000), or twice the amount of the fraud (whichever is greater).
In most cases, workers’ comp fraud as a misdemeanor carries a potential county jail sentence of up to one (1) year.

Legal Definition of Workers’ Compensation Fraud in California

There are several different California laws that address workers’ compensation fraud. These are:

Insurance Code 1871.4

Insurance Code 1871.4 is California’s main workers’ comp fraud statute. The legal definition of workers’ compensation fraud under this law is doing any of the following:

  1. Making, or causing to be made, a knowingly false or fraudulent material statement or representation for the purpose of obtaining or denying any workers’ comp benefits;
  2. Presenting, or causing to be presented, a knowingly false or fraudulent written or oral material statement in support of, or in opposition to, a claim for workers’ comp benefits;
  3. Knowingly aiding or abetting or conspiring with anyone else to commit any act of workers’ compensation fraud; or
  4. Making or causing to be made a knowingly false or fraudulent statement with regard to entitlement to benefits, with the intent to discourage an injured worker from claiming benefits or pursuing a claim.

Workers’ compensation benefits

“Workers’ compensation” is a form of private insurance policy that employers are required to pay for in California. If a worker is injured on the job, the insurance company will pay him/her benefits for:

  • Medical care;
  • Temporary disability (that is, payments to make up for lost wages if s/he is unable to work while recovering);
  • Permanent disability (payments to make up for lost wages if s/he is not able to work again after the accident); and/or
  • Death benefits (payments to the worker’s spouse, children or other dependents if s/he dies from a work-related injury or illness).

Workers’ compensation is what is known as a “no-fault” system. This means that the injured employee does not have to prove that the injury was someone else’s fault in order to receive benefits.

Example: Betty works as a word processor for a large law firm. The firm provides ergonomic chairs, but Betty refuses to use hers; instead she brings in a folding chair from home and sits on that.
Betty eventually acquires severe carpal tunnel syndrome from all the typing she has to do at work. She ends up needing to take several months off of work, and receive physical therapy, in order to recover.
Betty’s injury was arguably her own fault, not her employer’s, because she wouldn’t use their ergonomic chair.
But her injury is still covered by the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance policy because it is a “no-fault” system. The insurer pays her benefits for her therapy and lost wages.

Statement or representation

A “statement or representation” includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • An oral or written statement or representation by the claimant;
  • A notice;
  • A proof of injury;
  • A bill for services;
  • Payment for services;
  • Hospital or doctor records;
  • X-ray or test results;
  • Proof of medical-legal expenses; or
  • Any other evidence of loss, injury, expense or payment.

Example: Catherine works as a cashier in a liquor store. She suffers injuries to her face and neck when she is injured in an attempted robbery.
Catherine receives workers’ compensation benefits to cover treatment by Darren, a chiropractor who is a friend of hers. She and Darren realize that they can make a little profit by submitting inflated bills to the workers’ comp insurer
So Darren, with Catherine’s knowledge, submits bills for more frequent treatments than she actually receives.
Those bills for services count as “statements” under Insurance Code 1871.4, and both Catherine and Darren are guilty of workers’ compensation fraud.

“Material” statement or representation

A statement is considered “material” if it conveys information on subjects that:

  1. Are germane or reasonably relevant to the insurer’s investigation of the claim; and
  2. Could bear directly and importantly on the investigation and evaluation of the claim.

Example: Vern injures his knee in a car accident unrelated to his work. Then he is hit by an electric cart at his workplace, injuring his knee again.
Vern eventually applies for and receives workers’ compensation benefits for his injury at work.
He does not let the doctors or the insurance company know that he had an earlier, non-work-related injury to his knee.
Information about the prior injury could have supported a reduction or even a denial of benefits, if it turned out that it was partially responsible for Vern’s knee problems after his injury at work.
Therefore it was material to the insurer’s investigation of the claims—and Vern is guilty of workers’ comp fraud for not disclosing the prior injury.

False or fraudulent

A false or fraudulent statement is any statement that is untrue, or any statement or concealment of a material fact that is intended to induce a person to act to his/her detriment.
As the example of Vern above shows, knowing concealment of a material fact is considered a form of false or fraudulent statement or representation.
There are a variety of forms that false or fraudulent statements can take under workers’ compensation law. Applicants for benefits (that is, injured employees) can make a false or fraudulent statement by:

  • Faking an injury;
  • Lying about the extent of an injury;
  • Claiming that a non-work-related injury is work-related;
  • Failing to disclose a prior injury;
  • Denying having filed previous claims;
  • Collecting benefits for the same injury from more than one employer; and
  • Illegally working while receiving workers’ comp benefits (“double dipping”).

Example: Henry works for a city water department. After work on Fridays, he and his colleagues go to a nearby basketball court to play basketball.
One day Henry injures his knee during the basketball game. He goes back to the water department yard, reports the injury, and claims it happened to him while he was working. Later he applies for workers’ compensation benefits for the injury.
Henry is guilty of workers’ compensation insurance fraud for trying to pass off a non-work injury as a work injury.

Employer Fraud

Employers can also commit Insurance Code 1871.4 workers’ comp fraud by making false or fraudulent statements or representations. Common forms of workers’ compensation fraud by employers include:

  • Lying to their insurance company about the number of employees;
  • Misrepresenting an employee’s job duties; and
  • Lying to an employee about the extent of benefits to discourage him/her from submitting a claim.

Example: Maria is the owner of an appliance store. George, one of her employees, injures himself while moving a heavy appliance.
Maria tells George that he is not covered under her workers’ compensation policy because he has only been working for her for a few months.
This is untrue, and Maria knows it—but she doesn’t want her premiums to go up because of George’s application for benefits.
Maria is guilty of workers’ compensation fraud under Insurance Code 1871.4.

Penal Code 550 PC

Penal Code 550 PC describe several forms of California workers’ compensation fraud that overlap with California health care fraud. This law makes it a crime to do any of the following:

  • Knowingly make or cause to be made any false or fraudulent claim for payment of a health care benefit covered by workers’ comp insurance;
  • Knowingly submit a claim for a health care benefit covered by workers’ comp insurance that was not used by the claimant; or
  • Knowingly present multiple claims for payment of the same workers’ comp health care benefit, with an intent to defraud.

This form of workers’ compensation fraud can be committed by employees/applicants—but it is also sometimes committed by doctors and other medical professionals who provide treatment covered by workers’ compensation insurance.
Doctors who are convicted of this and other kinds of workers’ compensation fraud may lose their medical license in addition to standard criminal penalties.

Penal Code 549 PC

Under California Penal Code 549, a business owner or employee can commit workers’ compensation fraud by:

  1. Soliciting, accepting or referring any business to or from any person or entity,
  2. With the knowledge that, or with reckless disregard for whether, that person or entity intends to commit workers’ comp fraud.21

Often this form of workers’ compensation fraud is charged against doctors, chiropractors or other health care providers involved in a scheme of commercial bribery and/or kickbacks that is designed to take advantage of the workers’ compensation system.

Penal Code 549 PC

Under California Penal Code 549, a business owner or employee can commit workers’ compensation fraud by:

  1. Soliciting, accepting or referring any business to or from any person or entity,
  2. With the knowledge that, or with reckless disregard for whether, that person or entity intends to commit workers’ comp fraud.21

Often this form of workers’ compensation fraud is charged against doctors, chiropractors or other health care providers involved in a scheme of commercial bribery and/or kickbacks that is designed to take advantage of the workers’ compensation system.

False or fraudulent

A false or fraudulent statement is any statement that is untrue, or any statement or concealment of a material fact that is intended to induce a person to act to his/her detriment.
As the example of Vern above shows, knowing concealment of a material fact is considered a form of false or fraudulent statement or representation.
There are a variety of forms that false or fraudulent statements can take under workers’ compensation law. Applicants for benefits (that is, injured employees) can make a false or fraudulent statement by:

  • Faking an injury;
  • Lying about the extent of an injury;
  • Claiming that a non-work-related injury is work-related;
  • Failing to disclose a prior injury;
  • Denying having filed previous claims;
  • Collecting benefits for the same injury from more than one employer; and
  • Illegally working while receiving workers’ comp benefits (“double dipping”).

Example: Henry works for a city water department. After work on Fridays, he and his colleagues go to a nearby basketball court to play basketball.
One day Henry injures his knee during the basketball game. He goes back to the water department yard, reports the injury, and claims it happened to him while he was working. Later he applies for workers’ compensation benefits for the injury.

Henry is guilty of workers’ compensation insurance fraud for trying to pass off a non-work injury as a work injury.

Employer Fraud

Employers can also commit Insurance Code 1871.4 workers’ comp fraud by making false or fraudulent statements or representations. Common forms of workers’ compensation fraud by employers include:

  • Lying to their insurance company about the number of employees;
  • Misrepresenting an employee’s job duties; and
  • Lying to an employee about the extent of benefits to discourage him/her from submitting a claim.

Example: Maria is the owner of an appliance store. George, one of her employees, injures himself while moving a heavy appliance.
Maria tells George that he is not covered under her workers’ compensation policy because he has only been working for her for a few months. This is untrue, and Maria knows it—but she doesn’t want her premiums to go up because of George’s application for benefits.
Maria is guilty of workers’ compensation fraud under Insurance Code 1871.4.

Penal Code 550 PC

Penal Code 550 PC describe several forms of California workers’ compensation fraud that overlap with California health care fraud. This law makes it a crime to do any of the following:

  • Knowingly make or cause to be made any false or fraudulent claim for payment of a health care benefit covered by workers’ comp insurance;
  • Knowingly submit a claim for a health care benefit covered by workers’ comp insurance that was not used by the claimant; or
  • Knowingly present multiple claims for payment of the same workers’ comp health care benefit, with an intent to defraud.

This form of workers’ compensation fraud can be committed by employees/applicants—but it is also sometimes committed by doctors and other medical professionals who provide treatment covered by workers’ compensation insurance.
Doctors who are convicted of this and other kinds of workers’ compensation fraud may lose their medical license in addition to standard criminal penalties.

Penal Code 549 PC

Under California Penal Code 549, a business owner or employee can commit workers’ compensation fraud by:

  1. Soliciting, accepting or referring any business to or from any person or entity,
  2. With the knowledge that, or with reckless disregard for whether, that person or entity intends to commit workers’ comp fraud.21

Often this form of workers’ compensation fraud is charged against doctors, chiropractors or other health care providers involved in a scheme of commercial bribery and/or kickbacks that is designed to take advantage of the workers’ compensation system.

Penalties for Workers’ Compensation Fraud in California

Insurance Code 1871.4 penalties

Workers’ compensation fraud under Insurance Code 1871.4 is what is known as a wobbler. This is a crime that may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on:

  • The circumstances of the charges; and
  • The defendant’s criminal history.

When it is charged as a California misdemeanor, Insurance Code 1871.4 workers’ compensation fraud carries the following penalties:

  • Misdemeanor (summary) probation;
  • Up to one (1) year in county jail;
  • A fine of up to one hundred fifty thousand dollars ($150,000) or double the amount of the fraud, whichever is greater; and/or
  • Restitution to any parties who were victims of the fraud.

When this form of California workers’ compensation fraud is charged as a felony, the potential penalties are:

  • Felony (formal) probation;
  • Two (2), three (3) or five (5) years in county jail under California’s realignment program;
  • A fine of up to one hundred fifty thousand dollars ($150,000) or double the amount of the fraud, whichever is greater; and/or
  • Restitution to any parties who were the victims of the fraud.

Penal Code 550 penalties

Workers’ comp fraud in relation to health care benefits under Penal Code 550 is also a wobbler. The potential misdemeanor penalties under this law are:

  • Misdemeanor probation;
  • Up to one (1) year in county jail; and/or
  • A fine of up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

And the felony penalties for this form of workers’ compensation fraud include:

  • Felony probation;
  • Two (2), three (3) or five (5) years in county jail; and/or
  • A fine of up to fifty thousand dollars ($50,000) or double the amount of the fraud, whichever is greater.

The exception is if the total amount of the fraud is nine hundred fifty dollars ($950) or less (this includes the aggregate of multiple claims over a period of twelve (12) consecutive months).

In that case, PC 550 workers’ compensation insurance fraud is always a misdemeanor. The potential penalties are up to six (6) months in county jail, and/or a fine of up to one thousand dollars ($1,000).

Penal Code 549 penalties

PC 549 workers’ comp fraud—soliciting, accepting or referring business from someone knowing they intend to commit workers’ compensation fraud—is a wobbler for the first offense, and a felony for the second and subsequent offenses.

As a misdemeanor, this offense is punishable by up to one (1) year in county jail, and/or a fine of up to fifty thousand dollars ($50,000) or double the amount of the fraud, whichever is greater.

As a felony, it carries a potential jail sentence of sixteen (16) months, two (2) years or three (3) years, and a fine of up to fifty thousand dollars ($50,000) or double the amount of the fraud, whichever is greater.

2.4. Workers’ compensation fraud and professional discipline in California

California doctors, nurses and pharmacists who are accused of being involved in workers’ compensation fraud naturally need to be concerned about professional discipline.

For California doctors, any criminal conviction for an offense that is “substantially related” to the qualifications, functions, or duties of a physician can trigger professional discipline.32 Many forms of workers’ compensation fraud (for example, billing for services not actually rendered) could be deemed to fall into this category.

Nurses can also face nurse discipline and license revocation in some cases as a result of a workers’ compensation fraud conviction.

Pharmacists are another class of professionals that need to worry about the effect of a workers’ comp fraud charge on their professional license.

2.5. Civil penalties for workers’ comp insurance fraud

California law also provides for hefty civil fines for certain forms of workers’ compensation fraud.
These fines apply to parties who do any of the following:

  1. Willfully misrepresent any fact in order to obtain workers’ compensation insurance at a lower rate than the proper rate (this form of workers’ comp fraud is committed by employers);
  2. Present or cause to be presented any knowingly false or fraudulent statement in support of, or in opposition to, any claim for workers’ compensation benefits, for the purpose of either obtaining or denying those benefits;
  3. Knowingly solicit, receive, offer, pay, or accept any unlawful rebate, refund, commission or other compensation for soliciting or referring clients for services covered by workers’ compensation insurance;
  4. Knowingly operate or participate in a service that, for profit, refers patients to obtain medical or medical-legal services covered by workers’ comp; or
  5. Knowingly assist or conspire with anyone else to do any of the above.

Any of the above facts will lead to:

  • A civil penalty of at least four thousand dollars ($4,000) and up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000) for each illegal claim for compensation; and
  • An assessment of up to three (3) times the amount of the medical treatment or medical-legal expenses paid by a workers’ compensation insurer as a result of the fraud.

Plus, if you have a prior felony conviction for workers’ compensation fraud under Insurance Code 1871.4 or Penal Code 549, you will face an additional civil penalty of four thousand dollars ($4,000) for each item or service with respect to which the fraud occurred.

Legal Defenses to Workers’ Comp Fraud Charges

If you are charged with California workers’ compensation fraud, you and your criminal defense attorney may want to consider the following legal defenses:

You did not act with knowledge or fraudulent intent

You are not guilty of workers’ compensation fraud unless you acted with either:

  • Knowledge that a particular statement or behavior was false or fraudulent; or
  • Fraudulent intent.

Many times a careless mistake on your part will be flagged as potential fraud by an insurance investigator—and reported to the authorities.

But the burden is on the prosecution to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you knew you were submitting a false or fraudulent statement, and did not simply make a mistake.

A skilled criminal defense attorney may be able to cast enough doubt on this assertion to lead to charges being dropped—or a not-guilty verdict in a jury trial.

There is insufficient evidence that you committed workers’ compensation fraud

Many workers’ comp insurance cases revolve around a complicated set of facts. Often these facts involve highly technical and sometimes conflicting medical diagnoses, doctor’s reports, and other evidence that can be difficult for defendants and juries to make sense of.
But prosecutors may not take advantage of this complexity and ambiguity to convict someone unjustly.
It is a good criminal defense attorney’s job to find the weaknesses in the prosecution’s case—and to help you collect the strongest evidence for your innocence.

Securities Fraud Icon

Securities Fraud

Securities Fraud

If you or your business is under investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or the Department of Justice for securities fraud, you want to ensure that your rights are not being violated contact our San Diego securities fraud lawyers. Federal investigations can be long and taxing ordeals, and a securities fraud conviction may have harsh effects on your future or your business’s future.

What is Securities Fraud?

When a person or company misrepresents information that investors use to make decisions, that person or company is committing securities fraud.
A company might misrepresent information in order to make them more appealing to investors, or even to make them unappealing in other circumstances. Regardless of the reason, misrepresenting that information is a fraudulent action.

There Are Several Different Types of Securities Fraud, Including:

  • Accountant fraud
  • Corporate misconduct
  • Internet fraud
  • Insider trading
  • Pyramid schemes

What are common violations that might lead to an investigation or charges?

  • Insider trading
  • Penny stock pump-and-dump schemes
  • Manipulation of microcap market to make quick profits
  • Misrepresentation to investors
  • Providing false information or omitting important information about securities.
  • Manipulation of the securities’ market prices
  • Theft of funds or securities belonging to a customer
  • A broker’s violation of his or her responsibility to treat customers fairly
  • The sale of unregistered securities

Who is usually charged with Securities Fraud?
Here are just a few SEC targets:

  • Investment brokers
  • Stock traders/investors
  • Corporate and business executives
  • Organizers of investment clubs
  • Publicly traded companies that falsify quarterly or annual statements

How does the SEC find out about alleged illegal activity?

The Enforcement Division might receive a tip or complaint from an investor. It also monitors the market for irregularities, or it might discover alleged violations through media reports. The Division may use any number of sources that might prompt an investigation.

Will the SEC investigation end up in court?

The SEC may bring a case to a U.S. District Court to seek a sanction or remedy. But the SEC also may decide to go through an administrative proceeding. Unlike a civil court action, an administrative proceeding is heard by an administrative law judge (someone who is independent of the SEC). The ALJ will hear and consider evidence presented by the staff of the Enforcement Division. You will have a chance to present evidence in your defense.

What are the penalties if I am convicted?

You may have to pay a fine or be asked to return the profits (called disgorgement). You may be ordered to never serve as a corporate officer or director. Other possible sanctions include suspension or revocation of a broker-dealer and investment adviser registration

Do I need a San Diego attorney if accused of securities fraud?

Yes. With so much at stake, you will need an experienced San Diego securities fraud lawyer who is well-versed in federal laws and who thoroughly understands the SEC investigations. Pedro Bernal has tried cases in federal and state courts and has resolved complicated legal problems clients.
While handling a case involving the SEC can be tricky, Pedro Bernal knows exactly what is required to prepare a strong defense. He knows how to gather evidence, track down witnesses, reach out to experts who will testify on your behalf and get the results clients need to move on with their lives.

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DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE

For several years, I served as a Deputy District Attorney in the San Diego District Attorney’s Office, where I prosecuted complex white-collar crimes, fraud cases, drug trafficking offenses and tried numerous cases to jury verdict. I also worked as a Special Assistant United States Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego, prosecuting federal crimes.

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