Auto insurance fraud is a crime in California. It is also a crime to refer a person to an auto repair shop knowing that they intend to engage in auto insurance fraud. California uses Penal Code Section 549 to prosecute this criminal act.
PC 549 can result in either misdemeanor or felony charges in California. A conviction can lead to tens of thousands of dollars in fines, as well as incarceration. If you need to fight back against PC 549 charges, you can contact Simmrin Law Group for additional information.
Referring a Fraudulent Individual to an Auto Repair Shop
PC 549 is used in very specific cases to handle crimes related to auto insurance fraud. Individuals face this charge if they know someone intends to submit a false auto insurance claim and they still refer them to an auto repair shop.
Auto repair shops can also face charges for a PC 549 violation. This occurs if the auto repair shop solicits business while knowing it could result in a fake auto insurance claim. The state of California can also bring these charges against:
Individuals can even face PC 549 charges if they make a referral as part of their job.
The Relationships Between PC 548, PC 549, and PC 550
PC 548, PC 549, and PC 550 all elaborate on California’s response to criminal activity involving insurance companies. If you’re accused of one such violation, there’s a chance that the prosecution may attempt to charge you with the others, too.
These codes cover incidents involving:
- Fraud involving the abandonment or damaging of a vehicle (PC 548)
- The submission of fraudulent insurance claims to a provider (PC 550)
If you’re charged with either of these behaviors on top of a PC 549 violation, you risk felony consequences. You may spend up to five years in prison on top of fines of up to $50,000.
Fortunately, the overlap between these codes isn’t always easy to establish. Unless you both knew that someone submitted a fraudulent claim and submitted one yourself, for example, you’ll rarely see PC 549 and PC 550 overlap. Even so, be sure you understand what kind of charges you’re facing as you and your attorney go to face the prosecution.
How to Fight Automotive Fraud Charges in California
PC 550’s auto insurance fraud occurs anytime someone tries to get money out of an auto insurance company through deceit. There are many different ways to commit auto insurance fraud in California. Individuals can face this charge if they:
- Submit false claims or statements
- Stage car accidents
- Damage their vehicle on purpose
- Claim that the damage to a vehicle is more severe than it actually is
- Bribe people to get business for an auto repair shop
Auto insurance fraud is a white-collar crime. White-collar crimes are treated harshly in California, even though they don’t involve causing physical harm to other people. The team at the Simmrin Law Group is here to help with these charges.
The Consequences of a PC 549 Conviction
The severity of PC 549 charges tends to vary from case to case. That’s why professionals practicing law in California refer to these cases as “wobblers.” A “wobbler” case can see you face either misdemeanor or felony charges. What charges you face will change depending on the severity of your alleged crime.
PC 549 Misdemeanors
You may face a PC 549 misdemeanor penalty if your alleged behavior didn’t result in significant financial or physical harm for the victim involved. Should you be convicted in these cases, your consequences can include:
- Fines of up to $1,000
- Up to one year in county jail
- Summary probation
If you do face summary probation, you must abide by the conditions set forth by you by the state of California to avoid going to jail. These conditions can include long-term community service, counseling, or restitution.
PC 549 Felonies
PC 549’s felony consequences are more severe than those applied to misdemeanor charges. If you’re brought up on a felony charge, you can face:
- Jail time of up to three years
- Fines of up to $50,000 or at least double your alleged fraud
- Felony probation
If you have a criminal record, it’s likely that you may face additional consequences. These can be determined both by any active parole or probation requirements you’re under and the date of your last conviction.
Insurance Fraud, Theft, and PC 549 Charges
The accusations leveled against you might address more than auto insurance fraud. Related charges tend to involve petty theft and/or grand theft auto.
The inclusion of additional charges can change what penal code it is that you’re charged under. If you are charged with any of these crimes, you’ll want to connect with a criminal defense lawyer. We can discuss how best to reduce or eliminate the consequences you might face.
Defending Against PC 549 Charges
It is in your best interest to defend yourself against PC 549 charges. If you don’t take the opportunity to argue your side of the case, you’ll risk long-term consequences that impact your ability to get a job and car insurance.
Fortunately, there are several defenses that an experienced attorney can use to argue your case when you’re faced with PC 549 charges. These include:
Even though you’re being charged with a criminal offense, police officers and other legal professionals must use reasonable care when interacting with you. More specifically, California forbids its law enforcement representatives from using overbearing measures to punish or sway you when discussing your case.
If you’ve endured unreasonable treatment in talks regarding a confession, you can present evidence as such to your attorney. In turn, your attorney can fight to get your case dropped. This is the case while a case is still ongoing and after a judge and jury have delivered their verdict.
No Knowledge of a Fraudulent Submission
When you move to challenge a PC 549 charge, look at the language of the code. PC 549 strives to punish individuals who know that someone they’re connected with has submitted a claim with the intent to defraud an auto insurance company.
You can use evidence detailing conversations with a fraudulent party and details regarding your location at the time of the submission to protect yourself from undue charges.
If you’ve recently offended someone, there’s a chance that they may attempt to do you harm by framing you for insurance fraud. You can work with an attorney to prove that you were falsely accused if you want to avoid the consequences associated with your charges.
Talk to a Lawyer About PC 549 Charges
Contact us if you were accused of making a referral to auto repair shops for fraud. Let us handle Penal Code 549 charges for you and help you build your defense. You can review your legal options right now with a free case evaluation. Don’t delay in getting legal help in your corner.
You can call our office to schedule your first appointment. Alternatively, contact us through our online contact form to speak with one of our representatives.