Anyone who works in finance or holds a position of trust and has access to a business’ financials is at risk of allegations of embezzlement. Whether from a disgruntled co-worker looking to cause trouble or a person in a superior role within the business, these allegations are serious.
What is embezzlement?
The law defines embezzlement as a property crime that occurs when a person in a position of trust takes the property. This can range from a chief financial officer (CFO) who has access to business’ funds and transfers money into their own account to a waitress that takes money from the till.
What happens if I am accused of embezzlement?
The prosecution will need to establish various elements to build their case. The type of offense will vary depending on three main factors:
- Value. The value of the property stolen will impact whether the offense is a misdemeanor or felony. Generally, items under $1,000 in value qualify as a misdemeanor while those over $1,000 can meet the requirements for felony charges.
- Type of property. Additional penalties can apply for certain items. If, for example, the item was a firearm or other dangerous object the charges could include grand theft and prosecution will likely push for imprisonment.
- History. The prosecution will look to see if the accused has a criminal history and use it against them to help build their case.
A fourth factor can also play a role: the alleged victim. There are certain types of people that the government offers extra protections. This type of crime against those that fall within this group come with additional penalties. Protected members include the elderly, those in the military, and the disabled.
If convicted, penalties can range from a couple of months in jail and a $1,000 fine to over three years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine. It is important to note that the prosecution often tries to tie these allegations with other potential crimes so additional penalties are possible.
What are my options?
You can build a defense to these allegations. Depending on the details, these could include an honest mistake or lack of intent to take the asset as well as duress. An attorney experienced in this niche area of law can review your case and provide guidance on these and other options that may fit your situation.