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

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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

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 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.


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