Contractors and Criminal Liability
I have occasionally had clients who have been grossly mistreated by contractors. They have paid large sums of money for little or no return. The contractor may have done a little bit of work at the premises, but then disappeared. Perhaps the contractor took money in advance and then the homeowner discovered that even though the money was designated for subs, they were not paid.
At this point, homeowners frequently feel that they have been robbed. I have often been asked, "can I press criminal charges against the contractor?" I am not a criminal lawyer, but I have had experience with pursuing contractors criminally. Homeowners need to understand that bringing criminal charges will only succeed in the most extreme cases. One has to prove that the contractor took money and used it for other purposes. In addition, in a criminal case, it is necessary to show intent.
In my experience, most district attorneys hate contractor cases. They believe they belong in the civil arena. If the contractor has done any work, he can claim that there were change orders and the money was used to cover additional costs or materials. In order for criminal charges to be brought, the contractor has to intentionally take the homeowner's money. In most cases, this is very hard to prove.