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The most commonly used defense regards your intent, or your knowledge that what you were doing was fraudulent or illegal. A good faith defense means that you lacked criminal culpability because you never intended to defraud anyone or commit a criminal act. You didn’t realize what you were doing was wrong or fraudulent, or in other words, you were acting in good faith.

There’s also a type of defense called constructive fraud, and it’s very common in healthcare fraud cases where the government alleges that you fraudulently billed them for Medicare or Medicaid healthcare treatments. In reality, the rules for billing in Medicare or Medicaid can be so complex and confusing that there could be a misunderstanding or an erroneous interpretation that leads to fraudulent or false charges, even when people are trying to comply. A constructive fraud defense basically says, “I tried to comply but misunderstood the rule.”

Another common type of defense is called puffery. It’s an exaggeration of a claim, such as in sales. Instead of saying, “This product will do A, B, and C,” you say, “This is the best product in the world.” It’s not criminal to claim you have the best product or service, so puffery is a defense that includes usual salesmanship tactics regarding the value of the good you’re selling or the service you’re providing.

Lack of authority can be used in cases involving institutional fraud, when the owners of a company are being charged. If a salesperson or subordinate was doing illegal or unlawful acts without the knowledge or authority of their supervisors, the supervisors, when charged, can claim the defense that their subordinates did not have their authority or permission to act outside the scope of their employment and their instructions. This dovetails with lack of intent, since the supervisors claim they never meant to allow any illegal activities, they lacked intent.

Another very common defense is the statute of limitations. Depending on when the crime ended or when the last fraudulent act occurred, your defense could be that the government failed to charge you within the window of time they’re allotted to bring charges.

Uncertainty is a defense for situations when there’s no clear guidelines, rules, or procedures in place for what you were doing. That would mean you were uncertain at the time whether what you were doing was fraudulent or illegal.

Another defense would be the classic “I didn’t do anything. You’ve got the wrong person.” It’s rare, however, for authorities to have the wrong person in a federal court, but it can happen.

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