Deceptive Execution

Another Texas statute designed to criminalize fraud addresses the situations in which a person was deceived into signing a document. The complainant's argument is that they were deceived, and that they would not have otherwise executed a document but for the defendant's deception. On the other hand, a legitimate defense is that the person simply failed to read what they were signing and that buyer's remorse is not grounds for criminal prosecution. There is a good deal of fine print in any contract that the salesman typically encourages the buyer to skim over. Does this rise to the level of "intent to defraud?"  Mostly likely not, but the language in the first section of the statute is rather broad:

SECURING EXECUTION OF DOCUMENT BY DECEPTION.

A person commits an offense if, with intent to defraud or harm any person, he, by deception:

(1) causes another to sign or execute any document affecting property or service or the pecuniary interest of any person; or

(2) causes or induces a public servant to file or record any purported judgment or other document purporting to memorialize or evidence an act, an order, a directive, or process of:

    (A) a purported court that is not expressly created or established under the constitution or the laws of this state or of the United States;

    (B) a purported judicial entity that is not expressly created or established under the constitution or laws of this state or of the United States; or

    (C) a purported judicial officer of a purported court or purported judicial entity described by Paragraph (A) or (B).

For purposes of prosecuting a crime under this section, "deception" means:

(A) creating or confirming by words or conduct a false impression of law or fact that is likely to affect the judgment of another in the transaction, and that the actor does not believe to be true;

(B) failing to correct a false impression of law or fact that is likely to affect the judgment of another in the transaction, that the actor previously created or confirmed by words or conduct, and that the actor does not now believe to be true;

(C) preventing another from acquiring information likely to affect his judgment in the transaction;

(D) selling or otherwise transferring or encumbering property without disclosing a lien, security interest, adverse claim, or other legal impediment to the enjoyment of the property, whether the lien, security interest, claim, or impediment is or is not valid, or is or is not a matter of official record; or

(E) promising performance that is likely to affect the judgment of another in the transaction and that the actor does not intend to perform or knows will not be performed, except that failure to perform the promise in issue without other evidence of intent or knowledge is not sufficient proof that the actor did not intend to perform or knew the promise would not be performed.

Finally, the possible punishment range for most offenses is determined according to the Standard Value Ladder.

For offenses involving a public servant filing public documents, the offense level will always be a state jail felony.

For offenses involving the deceit of a person over 65, or involving the state Medicaid program, the punishment
increase to the next higher category of offense.

© 2014 Sumpter & González , L.L.P.
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