Wednesday, January 23, 2008

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.

20 Comments:

At 11:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I volunteer for a consumer org and it's true, most homeowners feel that their contractor committed a crime and think the law will go after them. They're very dismayed to learn that what the contractor did was almost always "civil," not "criminal," and the state tells them, "get a lawyer and sue." Suing is often impractical or unaffordable, and if there was an arbitration clause in the contract, they cannot sue anyway. IMO a lot more of what bad builders do should be made criminal under the law so that there is a deterrent factor of jail. It's far too easy for contractors to get away with things that any reasonable person knows is stealing or cheating.

 
At 8:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

After hiring a derelict to reface my cabinets I wish I had checked county court records and US district court records. This guy has 3 or 4 judgments against him and has filed backruptcy every year for the last 8 years. He is a criminal in every sense of the word. You may get lucky and he will actually finish your job. He has shown the ability to do good work you just have to catch him between casino hardships, etc. etc. TRY TO REMEMBER NO CONTRACTOR IN HIS RIGHT MIND IS GOING TO GIVE YOU REFERENCES OF JOBS/PEOPLE THEY HAVE SCREWED OVER.....NEVER!!!! Do your homework, it is YOUR hard earned money. Don't give it to some loser.

 
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Joshua Shook and I met over a year ago today to have some work done on my backyard(remodeling) This was to have some flagstone put down, outdoor fireplace put in and roof over patio. Josh told me he needed 2000 to start. He came by picked up the money and signed the contract. On Feb 18th Josh was to look for outside fireplace that I wanted. He found one and I met him in Waxahachie to give him another 1200.00 This was my mistake I gave him 3200.00 dollars in cash to have them delivered. Weeks went by then months he would come up with excuse after excuse as to why they are not coming in. Last time he told me they arrived at his home but were damaged so he sent them back. That was the last straw for me I quickly told him I wanted a refund! He said he would have to contact the places he ordered to get the refunds back. He would not cooperate and give me phone numbers of the places and became very rude and cursive! I have sent took him to small claims court won the case filed an abstract judgement against him and have sent the constable to his house to collect property to be sold off and of course he lives now in another St Louis according to his Uncle. He was using his uncles address all along. WE had a contract that I drew up he signed it and nothing has been done. I have bank statements to show the money was taken out and also had to get a loan to be able to pay the rest of it.

 
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Joshua Shook and I met over a year ago today to have some work done on my backyard(remodeling) This was to have some flagstone put down, outdoor fireplace put in and roof over patio. Josh told me he needed 2000 to start. He came by picked up the money and signed the contract. On Feb 18th Josh was to look for outside fireplace that I wanted. He found one and I met him in Waxahachie to give him another 1200.00 This was my mistake I gave him 3200.00 dollars in cash to have them delivered. Weeks went by then months he would come up with excuse after excuse as to why they are not coming in. Last time he told me they arrived at his home but were damaged so he sent them back. That was the last straw for me I quickly told him I wanted a refund! He said he would have to contact the places he ordered to get the refunds back. He would not cooperate and give me phone numbers of the places and became very rude and cursive! I have sent took him to small claims court won the case filed an abstract judgement against him and have sent the constable to his house to collect property to be sold off and of course he lives now in another St Louis according to his Uncle. He was using his uncles address all along. WE had a contract that I drew up he signed it and nothing has been done. I have bank statements to show the money was taken out and also had to get a loan to be able to pay the rest of it.

 
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