Embezzlement occurs when a person illegally takes of property or assets that has been entrusted to that person's care. Usually, embezzlement involves the taking of money. One example of embezzlement is when an employee entrusted with their employer's money takes it for the their own personal use. Embezzlement is a type of white collar crime.
In order to be charged with embezzlement, four elements must exist:
- The defendant must have a fiduciary relationship with the party who owns the property or asset.
- The defendant gained possession of the property through the fiduciary relationship.
- The defendant acquired ownership through the fiduciary relationship with intent to permanently deprive its owner.
- The defendant’s actions were intentional.
What Are the Consequences of an Embezzlement Conviction?
The consequences resulting from a criminal embezzlement can be varied depending on the severity of the crime and whether it qualifies as a felony or misdemeanor charge. The following are some of the possible consequences of a criminal conviction:
- Probation or parole
- Significant fines
- Loss of occupational or professional licensing
The likelihood of the consequences listed above will depend on several factors, including:
- Extent of money or property that was embezzled
- Harm to the person or entity that suffered the embezzlement
- Prior convictions
- Currently on probation or parole
What Are Common Defenses to Embezzlement?
Embezzlement is a crime, so all the defenses available for other crimes can be used. Common defenses include:
- Insufficient Evidence: A criminal charge or case can be dismissed if there is insufficient evidence to prosecute.
- Duress: Duress occurs when a person truly believes they will be in some danger or harm if they do not commit a crime. Common duress defenses in embezzlement cases that generally do not work include embezzling money to satisfy an addiction or to prevent family hardship. A duress defense will be more likely to work in cases where you would lose your job unless you participated in an embezzlement scheme.
- Entrapment: Entrapment occurs when the government compels an innocent person to commit a crime they would have otherwise not committed. Stings are generally exempt. However, setting up "bait" to get you to commit embezzlement can be entrapment. When bringing an entrapment defense, the prosecution will usually contend you were inclined to commit the offense anyway.
- Absence of Intent to Commit a Crime: Embezzlement requires specific intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property. If the defendant intended to return the item. For example, maybe you thought you were the true owner of the money or property that you are accused of embezzling
The return of embezzled money or property does not release an accused from criminal liability. The crime of embezzlement is complete at the time the property or money is converted into the accused possession and ownership.
What Should I Do If I Am a Victim of Embezzlement?
If you are a victim of embezzlement, you should call the police. If there is sufficient evidence, the police will then forward your case to the district attorney's office to prosecute the person who committed the embezzlement against you.
Should I Contact an Attorney?
If you are accused of embezzlement, you should speak to a criminal defense attorney with experience in white collar crime. An attorney can help you learn more about your rights, your defenses and the complicated legal system.