Penal Code 532 PC | False Pretenses

Penal Code 532 PC | False Pretenses

False pretenses refers to the crime of intentionally deceiving someone in order to unlawfully take their money or property. It’s charged under California Penal Code 532 PC.

The legal definition of false pretenses includes:

  • Knowingly making untrue statements or misrepresentations of fact,
  • With the intent to defraud,
  • Which induces the victim to give the defendant money or property.

Some examples of false pretenses include:

  • Lying about your identity or qualifications to get a job
  • Writing bad checks or stopping payment on a check after receiving goods
  • Using someone else’s credit card without their consent
  • Misrepresenting the quality/value of an item for sale

False pretenses is a wobbler offense in California, meaning it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony. Misdemeanor convictions carry up to 1 year in county jail. Felony convictions carry 16 months, 2 years or 3 years in jail or prison.

Elements of False Pretenses

For a prosecutor to convict you of false pretenses, they need to prove the following elements:

  1. You knowingly and intentionally deceived a property owner,
  2. Your false representation or pretense materially influenced the owner’s decision to part with their property, and
  3. The owner gave you ownership or possession of the property based on your false pretense.

Lets break these elements down further:

1. Knowingly deceiving the victim

This means deliberately making an untrue statement or misrepresentation of fact with intent to defraud. It dos’nt matter if you knew the statement was untrue. What matters is you had no reasonable grounds for believing it was true.

Some examples of false pretenses include:

  • Claiming you are the victim’s relative
  • Lying about your income or assets
  • Misrepresenting your skills, education or licensing
  • Making promises you have no intention of keeping

The key is your false statement played a significant role in convincing the victim to give you their property. Just making random false statements is’nt enough.

2. Victim relies on the deception

The victim must materially rely on your false statements when choosing to give you their property. Your lies, misrepresentations, or fraudulent promises must have induced the victim to make that decision.

If the victim had knowledge of the truth or did not care about your lies, then you did’nt commit false pretenses.

3. You gain ownership or possession

Finally, based on your deceptive statements, the victim consents to give you either ownership or possession of their property.

It does’nt matter if you intended to permanently deprive them of their property. Even temporarily gaining possession through deception qualifies as false pretenses.

Legal Defenses

If your accused of false pretenses, your criminal defense lawyer can challenge the charges with one or more of the following strategies:

  • You did’nt make any false statements – If the alleged lies or misrepresentations never occurred, you should’nt be convicted of using false pretenses.
  • The victim did’nt rely on the false statements – If the alleged lies did’nt influence the victim’s decision to give you property, then false pretenses has’nt occurred.
  • You had a good faith belief the statements were true – While ignorance or mistake of law is no excuse, an honest and reasonable belief in the truth of your statements can negate criminal intent.
  • No criminal intent – The prosecution must prove you had an intent to defraud the victim. If you made false statements by accident or non-criminal reasons, you lacked criminal intent.

With an experienced attorney, many cases of alleged false pretenses can be reduced to misdemeanors or dismissed entirely.

Penalties for False Pretenses

False pretenses can be filed as either a misdemeanor or felony offense, with the following penalties:

  • Misdemeanor – Up to 1 year in county jail, a fine up to $1,000, or both.
  • Felony – 16 months, 2 years or 3 years in county jail or state prison, a fine up to $10,000, or both.

Factors that determine whether false pretenses is a misdemeanor vs. felony include:

  • Your criminal history
  • Whether force or fear was used
  • Value of the property taken
  • Sophistication of the crime

In addition to jail or prison time, the court can order you to pay restitution to compensate the victim for their losses. Probation or parole may also be imposed.

Related Offenses

False pretenses charges often accompany other theft crimes, such as:

  • Petty theft – Stealing property worth $950 or less.
  • Grand theft – Stealing property over $950 in value.
  • Vehicle theft – Stealing a car or other vehicle.
  • Identity theft – Stealing personal identifying information.
  • Forgery – Falsifying documents for fraudulent purposes.

A skilled defense attorney can often get these charges reduced or dismissed through plea bargaining, especially if it’s a first offense.

Legal Definitions

Under California law, false pretenses requires proof of the following definitions:

  • False pretense – Any false or misleading statement, pretense, or representation made with intent to defraud.
  • Property – Anything of value, including money, physical goods, services, intangible rights, etc.
  • Ownership – Title to or dominion over property.
  • Possession – Physical control or custody of property.

Penal Code Section 532 PC

The full text of the California law on false pretenses is as follows:

Every person who knowingly and designedly, by any false or fraudulent representation or pretense, defrauds any other person of money, labor, or property, whether real or personal, or who causes or procures others to report falsely of his or her wealth or mercantile character, and by thus imposing upon any person obtains credit, and thereby fraudulently gets possession of money or property, or obtains the labor or service of another, is punishable in the same manner and to the same extent as for larceny of the money or property so obtained.

Get Legal Help

False pretenses charges can have serious consequences that hurt your finances, reputation and freedom. But an experienced California criminal defense lawyer can often get the charges reduced or dismissed.

For a free consultation about your case, call us 24/7 at [YOUR FIRM NAME AND PHONE NUMBER].