Business and Professions Code 12024.1 BPC (Misrepresentation of Charges)

Business and Professions Code 12024.1 BPC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to misrepresent a charge for a service.

Examples of illegal acts under this code section include:

  • An attorney that bills by the hour charges a client for extra hours that he never worked.
  • A contractor performs work on a home and charges the owner for “over-time,” even though he did not work any additional time.
  • A fabric store routinely charges its customers for an extra foot of fabric whenever they make a fabric purchase.

Defenses

Luckily, there are several legal defenses that a person or entity can raise if accused of a crime under Business and Professions Code 12024.1. These include showing that an accused party:

Penalties

A violation of BPC 12024.1 is charged as a misdemeanor (as opposed to a California felony or an infraction). The crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for up to six months; and/or,
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.

Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:

man surprised by bill
California Business and Professions Code 12024.1 BPC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to misrepresent a charge for a service.

1. The legal definition of misrepresenting charges

California Business and Professions Code 12024.1 BPC is the California statute that applies to the situation when a person or business misrepresents a charge for a service performed.

BPC 12024.1says that it is a crime for a party to:

  1. willfully” misrepresent, either by himself or through another,
  2. a charge for a service that was performed on the basis of weight, time, measure, or count.1

The use of the word “willfully” means that a party must intentionally misrepresent a charge to be guilty under this code section. A misrepresentation made by accident is not a violation of the statute.

The term “misrepresent,” as used in BPC 12024.1, takes on its normal definition: the act of giving a false or misleading report of something.

2. Legal Defenses

A person accused under Business and Professions Code 12024.1 can challenge the accusation by raising a legal defense. A good defense can often get a charge reduced or even dismissed. Please note, though, that it is critical for an accused to hire an attorney to get the most effective defense.

Three common defenses to BPC 12024.1 accusations are:

  1. accident;
  2. coerced confession; and/or,
  3. unlawful search or seizure.

2.1. Accident

Please recall that BPC 12024.1 uses the term, “willfully.” This means that a misrepresentation of a charge has to be made intentionally for a party to be guilty under the code section. It is always a defense, therefore, for a defendant to show that while he might have misrepresented a charge, he did so by accident.

2.2. Coerced confession

This defense applies to the situation where a defendant was charged under BPC 12024.1 following a confession.

California law states that police may not use overbearing measures to coerce a confession.

If a party can show that the police coerced him into a confession, then:

  1. the judge may exclude the confession from evidence; or,
  2. the case could get dropped altogether if the party got pressured into confessing to a crime he didn't commit.

2.3. Unlawful search or seizure

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution declares that we have the right to be free from unreasonable “searches and seizures” by law enforcement. If authorities obtain evidence from an unreasonable, or unlawful search and seizure, then that evidence can get excluded from a criminal case. This means that any charges in the case could get reduced or even dismissed.

The Fourth Amendment's rule against unreasonable searches and seizures means that police may not search a person or his property unless one of the following is true:

  1. they have obtained a valid search warrant from a judge, or
  2. the search falls within one of a number of exceptions to the warrant requirement recognized by federal and California courts.2
man behind bars
A violation of this law can result in a fine and/or jail time.

3. Penalties, Punishment, and Sentencing

A violation of BPC 12024.1 is charged as a misdemeanor.3 The crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for up to six months; and/or,
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.4

Please note that in lieu of jail time a judge may order a defendant to misdemeanor probation. This is also called “summary” or “informal” probation.

4. Related Offenses

There are three crimes related to the misrepresentation of charges. These are:

  1. selling false quantity – BPC 12024;
  2. false pricing – BPC 12024.2; and,
  3. unfair competition – BPC 17200-17209.

4.1. Selling false quantity – BPC 12024

California Business and Professions Code 12024 BPC is the California statute that applies to businesses and merchants selling false quantities of goods.

A prosecutor must prove three elements in order to successfully convict a defendant under BPC 12024. These are:

  1. the defendant, either by himself or through another;
  2. sold a commodity; and,
  3. did so in less quantity than he or she represented.5

A “commodity” is a basic good sold to customers in commerce. Some examples include:

  • oranges,
  • carrots,
  • meats,
  • electricity, and
  • natural gas.

A violation of BPC 12024 is charged as a misdemeanor.6 The crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for up to six months; and/or,
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.7

4.2 False pricing – BPC 12024.2

California Business and Professions Code 12024.2 BPC makes it a crime for a party to:

  • sell a commodity at a higher price than it is advertised, marked, or displayed for; or,
  • sell a commodity at a higher amount than the lowest price posted on the commodity itself.8

A “commodity” is a basic good sold to consumers in commerce.

A violation of BPC 12024.2 is a wobblette offense under California law. This means it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or an infraction.9

If there is a willful violation of the statute, or if the crime involves an overcharge amount greater than $1, then the offense is a misdemeanor. As such, it is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year; and/ or,
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.10

If the offense involves an overcharge amount less than $1, then the crime is charged as an infraction. As such, it is punishable by a maximum fine of $100.11

4.3 Unfair competition – BPC 17200-17209

California's “unfair competition” laws, Business and Professions Code 17200-17209, prohibit false advertising and other anti-competitive practices.

California Business and Professions Code 17200 defines “unfair competition” as:

  • any unlawful, unfair or fraudulent business act or practice, or
  • false, deceptive or misleading advertising.12

To have the grounds to sue for unfair competition in California, a party must have actually lost money or property as the result of false advertising or unlawful practices. Lawsuits can be brought under these laws by either consumers or by businesses that have been damaged by a competitor's unfair actions.

Remedies for unfair competition in California can include:

  • recovery of the plaintiff's actual economic damages; and/or
  • injunctive or equitable relief to prohibit the unfair practices.

Please note that punitive damages are not available in unfair competition cases. As a result, many unfair competition cases are brought as California class actions.

Were you accused of misrepresenting a charge in California? Call us for help…

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Call us for help at (855) LAW-FIRM

If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime under Business and Professions Code 12024.1 BPC, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. We can be reached 24/7 at 855-LawFirm.


Legal References:

  1. California Business Code 12024.1 BPC. This code section states: “Every person, by himself, or through or for another, who willfully misrepresents a charge for service rendered on the basis of weight, time, measure, or count is guilty of a misdemeanor.”

  2. E.g., Riley v. California (2014) 134 S.Ct. 2473, 2482. (“In the absence of a warrant, a search is reasonable only if it falls within a specific exception to the warrant requirement.”).

  3. California Business and Professions Code 12024.1 BPC.

  4. California Penal Code 19 PC.

  5. California Business and Professions Code 12024 BPC.

  6. See same.

  7. California Penal Code 19 PC.

  8. California Business and Professions Code 12024.2 BPC.

  9. See same.

  10. See same.

  11. See same.

  12. California Business and Professions Code 17200 BPC.

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