Mens rea proof in fraud cases: work with experienced advocate to build defense

In our last post, we mentioned that the issue of mens rea requirements under federal criminal statutes may be an issue in President Obama’s attempt to push criminal justice reforms through Congress before the end of his term. Mens rea, we noted, refers to the statutory intent requirement.

When it comes to criminal charges at either the federal or state level, there is no uniform mens rea requirement. Different statutes spell out different requirements in terms of what must be proven by prosecutors to get a conviction. For criminal defendants and their attorneys, it is critical to understand the mens rea requirements for the statutes under which the defendant is being charged so as to build the best possible defense.

Looking at federal mail and fraud statutes, for example, the requirement to prove fraudulent intent is an important element prosecutors must establish. Proving fraudulent intent may be done either through direct or indirect, circumstantial evidence consisting of statements or conduct. The totality of the circumstances may be considered with respect to the intent requirement.

There are various ways prosecutors may infer fraudulent intent, including proof of reckless indifference to the truth or falsity of a representation, the modus operandi of the fraud scheme, and even the fact that someone was actually victimized.

Fraudulent intent is an important element in criminal fraud cases, but prosecutors can and do sometimes extend their cases beyond what the evidence is showing. Working with an experienced criminal defense attorney is, therefore, critical to ensure one receives the best possible representation in these cases.


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