Can I be charged criminally for a financial arrangement gone sour?

UPDATED: Jan 4, 2013

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Can I be charged criminally for a financial arrangement gone sour?

I had an arrangement with someone who changed their mind. Now the person says there was no agreement. It’s just my word against his. There was no formal contract or written agreement.

Asked on January 4, 2013 under Criminal Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

There are two different issues here:

1) Legally, it is only a crime if you had criminal intent ("mens rea"): for  example, if you deliberately lied to the other party, to get him to give you money, without having either the intention or the ability to  honoring the deal. If there was no criminal intent, there is no crime--though if you cost someone money through, say, negligence (unreasonable carelessness) or violating the terms of an agreement, you could certainly be sued to recover that money.

2) Practically, if he claims that there was never an agreement and you stole from him, the issue will be: how believable is he, and any supporting evidence that he has? The authorities are not mind-readers: they don't know what "actually" happened, only what the evidence shows or at least suggests. If he can muster sufficient evidence that you committed a criminal act, you could possibly face criminal liability.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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