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Understanding The Crucial Difference Between Civil Fraud And Criminal Fraud

by | Mar 26, 2023 | General & Civil Litigation |

While civil fraud and criminal fraud share some similarities, there are also some significant differences between the two. The primary difference is that criminal fraud is a crime, which can result in imprisonment, fines, and other penalties.[1] Civil fraud, on the other hand, is a civil matter resolved through a lawsuit and typically results in monetary damages or an injunction.

Another difference between civil and criminal fraud is the burden of proof. In a criminal case, the burden of proof is “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is a higher standard than the “preponderance of the evidence” standard used in civil cases. This means that it is more difficult to prove criminal fraud than civil fraud.

The biggest difference is the requirement in a criminal fraud case that the fraud be committed “intentionally” and “knowingly”. The elements of criminal fraud are as follows[2]:

  1. Obtaining property or performance of services from somebody
  2. by intentionally deceiving that person with a false representation
  3. the false representation is known to be false,
  4. the false representation is made with intent to defraud, and
  5. the false representation does defraud the person to whom it is made.

Intentionally means that the person either (a) has a purpose to do the thing or cause the result specified or (b) believes that the act performed by the person, if successful, will cause that result.[3]

Knowingly means the person believes that the representation is false, whether it is or not.[4]

In a civil fraud case, intent and knowledge are not required, it is enough to show that the false representation was stated to be true whether or not the person stating it knew it was true or not or intended to defraud the person damages by the false representation.

The consequences of a finding of fraud in a civil case are typically limited to financial damages. In contrast, a criminal fraud conviction can result in imprisonment, a criminal record and other long-lasting consequences that come with a criminal conviction.

[1] Minn. Stat. § 609.52.

[2] Minn. Stat. § 609.52, Subd. 2(a)(3).

[3] Minn. Stat. § 609.02, Subd. 9(3).

[4] Minn. Stat. § 609.02, Subd. 9(2).