How Do Federal Defense Lawyers Challenge Wire Fraud Charges?
Wire fraud is a serious federal crime that carries substantial penalties, including hefty fines and lengthy prison sentences. Defendants facing wire fraud charges need an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer to build the strongest possible defense.
This article will examine common strategies federal defense attorneys use to fight wire fraud allegations in court. It will also look at the typical evidence in these cases and how lawyers work to undermine the prosecution’s arguments. With smart legal representation, many defendants can avoid conviction or at least reduce the consequences.
An Overview of Federal Wire Fraud Laws
The main federal wire fraud statute is 18 U.S.C. § 1343. This law makes it a crime to devise a scheme to defraud someone out of money or property using telephone calls, emails, texts or other electronic communications that cross state or national borders.
The statute applies to any interstate or international wire transmission made “for the purpose of executing such scheme or artifice.” This includes both successful schemes and failed attempts.
To prove wire fraud, prosecutors must establish:
- The defendant knowingly participated in a scheme to defraud
- The scheme involved a material deception
- The defendant had intent to defraud
- Interstate wires were used to further the scheme
Penalties increase when the fraud affects a financial institution or relates to major disasters. Wire fraud involving a bank or disaster relief can lead to 30 years imprisonment. Most other wire fraud convictions carry a 20 year maximum sentence.
How Lawyers Attack the Government’s Evidence
Skilled federal defense attorneys carefully examine the prosecution’s evidence and look for weaknesses to exploit at trial. Some evidence types commonly used in wire fraud cases include:
- Recorded calls and messages: The government may have recordings of the defendant’s phone calls, emails, texts or other communications. Lawyers review these for exculpatory statements or other flaws.
- Financial and business records: Prosecutors often use financial statements, bank records, invoices and other documents to try to prove fraud. Defense lawyers scrutinize them for inaccuracies or misinterpretations.
- Cooperating witness testimony: Accomplices who cooperate with the government often testify against defendants in exchange for leniency. Their credibility can be challenged.
- Expert witness testimony: The prosecution may call expert witnesses to analyze records and data. Their qualifications and conclusions can be contested.
- Law enforcement testimony: Investigating agents frequently testify about their investigative activities. However, courts limit the scope of permissible law enforcement testimony.
In wire fraud cases, the electronic evidence trail creates additional avenues for defense lawyers to undermine the prosecution’s version of events. By highlighting contradictory digital information, attorneys can often show reasonable doubt.
Common Wire Fraud Defenses Raised by Experienced Lawyers
There are several legal defenses federal criminal defense attorneys commonly assert when fighting wire fraud charges in court. The most effective defenses depend on the unique facts of each case. Common wire fraud defenses include:
Lack of Intent to Defraud
Since wire fraud requires an intent to defraud, lawyers may argue the defendant acted in good faith without any intent to deceive. Evidence showing the defendant sincerely believed the venture was legitimate can defeat the intent element.
No Misrepresentations Made
Attorneys can argue the evidence fails to show any actual misrepresentations to victims. If the defendant did not make false statements or material omissions, there may be no fraud.
No Reliance on Misrepresentations
In some cases, lawyers contend victims did not actually rely on the defendant’s alleged misrepresentations when deciding to part with money or property. This lack of reliance can undermine the causation element.
Statute of Limitations Expired
The statute of limitations for federal wire fraud charges is five years in most cases. If the alleged fraud occurred beyond this timeframe, the charges could get dismissed.
No Interstate Nexus
Since wire fraud requires interstate wire transmissions, lawyers may claim the government lacks evidence of any communications crossing state or national borders. Intrastate communications do not qualify.
No Criminal Intent
Where the evidence shows the defendant acted negligently or recklessly but did not specifically intend to break the law, attorneys can argue for acquittal based on lack of criminal intent.
Defense lawyers scrutinize the government’s investigative techniques for constitutional problems like illegal searches, lack of Miranda warnings, compelled self-incrimination, etc. Suppressing illegally obtained evidence may sink the prosecution’s case.