In Florida, embezzlement is charged under the property theft statute. Some theft crimes, like petty or grand theft, require taking another person’s property without that person’s consent. Embezzlement also includes taking another person’s property, but the other person initially consented to the initial taking. Embezzlement requires an intent to temporarily or permanently appropriate another person’s money for personal benefit, but without permission. Embezzlement nearly always involves a relationship between:
- an individual and a financial institution
- a business and a financial institution
- an employee and a business in an employment context
In any of these situations, a person entrusted with the money uses the money for personal gain rather than for the appropriate person, business, or financial institution. The person alleging embezzlement must prove that the employee/person/business was entrusted with the money and had control over it. Imagine a situation where a business employee goes to a bank to deposit checks. Instead of depositing all the checks into the business’s accounts, the employee instead keeps some of the money for herself. Another common situation arises when a financial institution works with individuals or businesses, and the financial institution keeps the money for itself rather than holds money for individuals or businesses. Embezzlement can also be a crime when used for the benefit of another person. For example, if the person appropriating money is doing it to save money for a child’s college fund, it is still embezzlement.
Florida Embezzlement Attorney
If you have been arrested for embezzlement, it is in your best interest to retain experienced legal counsel as soon as possible. The Law Office of Ashley Aulls, P.A. has practiced law since 1996 and has experience defending clients of white collar crimes. Mr. Aulls can advocate aggressively for you.
To schedule a free consultation, call (352) 593-4115. The Law Office of Ashley Aulls, P.A. accepts embezzlement cases all throughout the Brooksville area, including Weeki Wachee, High Point, Hernando Beach, Hill ‘n Dale, Inverness Highlands, Sugarmill Woods, Lecanto, Wildwood, Lake Panasoffkee, and Bushnell.
Like all crimes, those accused can be charged with embezzlement under the criminal theft statute and can be sued in civil court. Because criminal and civil courts have different rules, it is essential to understand exactly the allegation and who is making it. An individual criminally charged with embezzlement should work with a highly skilled defense attorney to reduce the consequences of their criminal matter and prevent or reduce the impacts of civil lawsuits.
The value of the property taken is a significant factor in determining the penalties for theft crimes. Whether embezzlement is charged as a felony or misdemeanor is also determined by the amount alleged to have been embezzled. Because embezzlement tends to include considerable amounts of money, the penalties can be severe, including fines and prison time. The following values and their penalties have wide ranges:
- Value under $300: up to 60 days in jail and up to a $500 fine
- Value between $300 and $20,000: up to 5 years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine
- Value between $20,000 and $100,000: up to 15 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine
- Value of $100,000 or more: up to 30 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine
The above penalties can be enhanced if the accused has a prior embezzlement conviction. Sometimes, an unrelated prior criminal history can impact new embezzlement convictions.
Like other crimes, the prosecution must prove that the crime of embezzlement occurred beyond a reasonable doubt. A good defense attorney will know where to find holes in a prosecutor’s case and how to present evidence that contradicts or calls into doubt the prosecutor’s evidence. This remains true even if it is undisputed that embezzlement occurred, but the prosecutor does not have all the correct facts. Common defenses to embezzlement and some other theft crimes include:
Identity/Knowledge: Perhaps embezzlement occurred, but someone else did it. The person accused was at the wrong place at the wrong time. The person accused may have had a good faith belief that the money was properly given to them, and they dealt with the money appropriately but did not know they were part of a larger scheme. A good faith belief as to knowledge can be a defense even if it is wrong.
Ownership: The person accused had a good faith belief that the money belonged to them because their employer or co-worker gave them the money. A good faith belief of ownership can be a defense, even if wrong.
No Intent: If there was no intent to commit embezzlement, the crime could not have occurred.
Overinflated Value: Perhaps embezzlement occurred, but the amount is less than the prosecutor has alleged.
Identity, ownership, and intent and their evidence can result in dropped charges and not guilty verdicts. If a defense attorney counters with evidence to show that the prosecutor overestimated the amount of money embezzled, the resulting penalties could be significantly reduced. Those sentenced could have their convictions reduced from felonies to misdemeanors, resulting in fewer long-term consequences than felony convictions. Whether a felony or misdemeanor, proof of overinflated values can also result in decreased jail or prison time and fines.
Depending on the circumstances, returning funds can be a tool that defense attorneys use when negotiating with prosecutors. However, it is essential to understand that returning embezzled funds to an individual, business, or employer does not mean that embezzlement did not occur, nor is it a defense to the crime.
Florida Legislature Statute 812.014(1)(b) – Although the statute does not explicitly identify “embezzlement,” this statute provides the elements for an embezzlement charge.
Considerations for Post-Convictions – The Florida Public Defender’s Office provides a lengthy guide for many forgotten issues post-conviction, including child custody and parental rights, government and unemployment benefits, housing, criminal expungements, immigration, firearms, and other issues.
Brooksville Embezzlement Attorney | Hernando County, FL
If you have been accused of allegedly committing embezzlement, you can face steep fines and imprisonment if convicted. This is why it’s important to seek the legal guidance of a qualified defense lawyer in Brooksville.
Ashley Aulls is a highly skilled and knowledgeable Hernando County criminal defense lawyer at The Law Office of Ashley Aulls, P.A. can work hard to obtain a reduction or dismissal of charges. If you reside in Hernando County, Citrus County, or Sumter County, call (352) 593-4115 to secure a free consultation.