My cousin came to me last year and wanted me to build them a website, I explained I could do it (freelance) but it would take some time to complete, he paid me ~$1200 up front to build the site, a few months went by and the site wasn't finished but my cousin demanded that it be finished then or he wanted his money back, there was no way to finish it right then and I could not afford to give him a refund. There was no contract, no written agreements etc - but no MONTHS later he says he is going to take me to Magistrate court and have Criminal Charges brought up against me if I do not give him a refund THIS WEEK... is this even possible?! Please help... I can't afford to give him the money back, and he was the one that decided to go elsewhere.
Generally speaking, based on your description you aren't going to have criminal charges brought against you. Firstly, your cousin cannot bring charges against you, only the police or the prosecutors can; the most your cousin can do is file a police report. Secondly, what you have is a garden variety civil dispute about the services you provided and whether you owe a refund. That is almost never the basis for criminal charges.
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This is most likely a small claims civil dispute but your cousin may be able to go to the police and write out a warrant if the police won't. On a second note, saying you can't afford to return any of the funds sounds like you have already spent the money he gave you before you earned the entire amount which will not be a valid defense to this if a claim is brought.
Only the police or prosecutor/solicitor can bring charges against you. Your cousin can go to file a police report and if the facts support it, there may be an available charge. Whatever you do, do not admit to anything when discussing this with him, and do not discuss it with the cops no matter what they tell you without an attorney by your side. Most likely though this is a matter for civil court and not criminal. The intent of you taking the money would be the biggest issue as to why it is not criminal in nature. That being said, you would have to answer to a civil suit if he decides to sue you in civil court for the $1200 and he could potentially have a claim for legal fees if he seeks the advice of an attorney. This is what you should do. Go talk to an attorney to help you out in this mess. If you build websites in the future it might be a good idea to keep the money in a separate account and not spend it until you have completed the job for your customers, that way if they leave or hire someone else you can pay them back for what work you haven't completed. If you need help setting up your business, many lawyers would be glad to help you with that as well.
Your cousin may take you to magistrates (small claims) court for a civil action but unless he is a prosecutor, solicitor or other government attorney he cannot file criminal charges himself. The best he could do is file a police report and see what they do. My guess is nothing.
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