29 Nov 23

I Was Charged with Bank Fraud – Will I Go to Prison?

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Last Updated on: 15th December 2023, 07:10 pm

I Was Charged with Bank Fraud – Will I Go to Prison?

Getting charged with bank fraud can be scary. You may be wondering if you’ll go to prison or what other penalties you might face. This article covers the basics of bank fraud charges, typical sentences, and defense strategies that could help reduce penalties.

What is Bank Fraud?

Bank fraud involves schemes to illegally obtain money from a bank or financial institution. Common examples include:

  • Writing bad checks
  • Using false information or ID to open a bank account or get a loan
  • Stealing money by hacking into bank accounts

Bank fraud charges can range from misdemeanors to felonies depending on the amount of money and sophistication of the fraud. Cases involving over $1 million may face up to 30 years in prison under federal bank fraud laws .

What Are the Penalties for Bank Fraud?

Penalties for bank fraud vary widely based on specific offenses and amounts involved, but commonly include:

  • Prison time – ranging from a few months to decades for major frauds
  • Fines – from thousands to millions of dollars
  • Restitution payments to banks
  • Forfeiture of property obtained illegally
  • Probation or supervised release

While first-time offenders may receive probation for minor frauds, prison time is common in federal bank fraud cases. The average bank fraud sentence in 2019 was over 3 years in prison .

What Determines the Sentence?

Key factors judges consider in bank fraud sentencing include:

  • Dollar amount – Higher losses mean longer sentences
  • Criminal history – Repeat offenders get harsher sentences
  • Role in the offense – Leaders face longer sentences than followers
  • Victim impact – Harm caused to individual victims
  • Acceptance of responsibility – Admitting guilt may earn sentencing leniency

Federal sentencing guidelines provide a formula to calculate recommended sentences based on the fraud amount and other factors. However judges have flexibility to impose higher or lower sentences .

What Are the Chances I’ll Avoid Prison?

Unfortunately for felony bank fraud charges, some amount of prison time is likely. However, first-time offenders convicted of smaller frauds may still have a chance at probation instead of imprisonment. Your defense attorney can request a downward departure from guidelines to argue for a more lenient sentence.


Alternatives to incarceration that may be available in some bank fraud cases include:

  • House arrest – With electronic monitoring
  • Community confinement – Reside in halfway house instead of prison
  • Home detention – Restricted to home when not working

These options still involve restricted liberties with close supervision, but allow convicts to avoid serving time behind bars.

How Can an Attorney Help Reduce the Sentence?

Hiring an experienced white collar criminal defense lawyer is essential to have any chance of avoiding prison for bank fraud. Strategies attorneys use to help clients include:

  • Negotiating plea bargains to have charges dropped or reduced
  • Crafting sentencing memos arguing for downward departures from guidelines
  • Presenting mitigating circumstances to influence the judge’s sentencing discretion
  • Seeking charge dismissals by challenging the sufficiency of evidence

In some cases, it may even be possible to avoid a criminal conviction through pretrial intervention programs or deferred adjudication agreements resulting in dropped charges after a probationary period.

While charges like bank fraud carry potentially severe penalties, experienced defense representation maximizes the possibilities of reduced sentencing or alternative resolutions without imprisonment through effective negotiation and advocacy.

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