Penal Code 548 PC | Fraudulent Insurance Claim of Damage or Theft

Penal Code 548 PC – Fraudulent Insurance Claim of Damage or Theft in California

Making a false or fraudulent insurance claim can lead to serious criminal charges in California. Penal Code 548 PC is the California law that makes it a crime to make a fraudulent insurance claim by either staging damage or theft to property in order to collect insurance money, or by exaggerating the amount of loss from actual damage or theft.

While insurance fraud may seem like an easy way to make some extra cash, it is illegal. Getting caught can lead to felony charges, fines, and jail time. This article will cover:

  • The legal definition of California’s law against insurance fraud
  • The penalties for being convicted under this law
  • Legal defenses that a skilled criminal defense lawyer may use
  • Related offenses that prosecutors often charge along with PC 548

1. The Legal Definition of Fraudulent Insurance Claims in California

Penal Code 548 PC states that “any person who knowingly and designedly presents a false or fraudulent claim, or any proof in support of such a claim, for the payment of a loss, injury, or expense under a contract of insurance” commits insurance fraud.1

In plain English, this means its against the law to:

  • File an insurance claim for property loss or damage that was staged, caused intentionally, or never actually happened
  • Exaggerate or inflate the amount of loss from actual damage or theft when filing a claim

Some examples of fraudulent insurance claims prohibited under California law include:

  • Staging a theft of your car and then reporting it stolen to collect the insurance payout
  • Purposely causing damage to your home or possessions in order to file an insurance claim
  • Purchasing insurance right before your car is damaged in an accident, and then filing an insurance claim for repairs
  • Lying about having expensive jewelry stolen during a reported break-in of your home
  • Saying hail damage to your roof is worse than it is in order to get new roofing paid for by your insurer

In any of these scenarios, California law prohibits making a false insurance claim in order to collect money that you are not truly entitled to under your policy.

2. Penalties for Fraudulent Insurance Claims in California

Filing a fraudulent insurance claim under Penal Code 548 is a California felony. If convicted, you face:2

  • 16 months, 2 years or 3 years in county jail
  • Up to 10 years in state prison
  • A fine of up to $10,000
  • Formal probation

Prosecutors frequently file charges for related crimes along with PC 548. Common accompanying charges may include:

  • Insurance fraud under Penal Code 550 – up to 5 years in jail
  • Grand theft under Penal Code 487 – up to 3 years in jail
  • Petty theft under Penal Code 488 – up to 6 months in jail
  • Perjury under Penal Code 118 – 2, 3 or 4 years in jail

A conviction will also go on your criminal record. This can negatively impact your ability to get a job, professional license, housing, or custody rights.

3. Legal Defenses Against Fraudulent Insurance Claims

If you are accused of fraudulent insurance claims, working with an experienced California criminal defense lawyer is critical. A skilled attorney can often get charges reduced or dismissed by raising defenses such as:

  • You lacked criminal intent – Prosecutors must prove you knowingly and intentionally filed a false claim. Evidence showing you made an honest mistake or had no intent to defraud the insurer can defeat the charges.
  • No false statement – If the alleged false information you provided was actually true, you are not guilty of insurance fraud.
  • Claim was not material – The false statement must have been important enough to influence the insurer’s decision-making for it to constitute fraud.
  • Lack of evidence – Without solid evidence like documentation, witness statements or expert analysis, the D.A. may not be able to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

An experienced criminal defense attorney can also negotiate with the prosecutor for charge reduction or dismissal. They will know how to present your case in the best light so you get the most favorable outcome possible.

4. Related Offenses to Fraudulent Insurance Claims

Two other charges relating to fraudulent insurance claims that defendants commonly face are:

4.1. Penal Code 550 – Insurance Fraud

Penal Code 550 PC California’s general law against insurance fraud. It prohibits submitting false information to an insurance company, or concealing relevant information, in order to obtain insurance coverage or inflate a claim.3

Insurance fraud under PC 550 can be filed as a misdemeanor or a felony. Potential sentences include:

  • Misdemeanor – up to 1 year in county jail
  • Felony – 16 months, 2 years or 5 years in California state prison

4.2. Penal Code 118 – Perjury

Penal Code 118 PC is California’s perjury law. It makes it a crime to provide false information under oath, such as in a written statement to the insurance company. Perjury is a felony carrying 2, 3 or 4 years in state prison.4

Call us for help…

Being charged with fraudulent insurance claims under California Penal Code 548 PC can have devastating consequences. The best defense is having an experienced California criminal defense lawyer on your side. We provide strong legal defenses, argue to get charges reduced or dismissed, and advocate relentlessly for your best interests.

To speak with one of our criminal law attorneys about your case, don’t hesitate to contact us 24/7 for a free consultation.

Legal References:

5. California Penal Code 551 PC.

6. California Penal Code 484 PC – Petty Theft.

7. California Penal Code 487 PC – Grand Theft.

8. California Penal Code 459 PC – Burglary.

9. California Penal Code 470 PC – Forgery.

10. California Penal Code 487d PC – Grand Theft of Access Card.

11. California Penal Code 368 PC – Elder Abuse.

12. California Penal Code 530.5 PC – Identity Theft.

13. California Penal Code 532 PC – False Pretenses.

14. California Penal Code 532a PC – False Representations to Obtain Credit.

15. California Penal Code 532f PC – False Representations to Obtain Property or Credit.