If you’re charged with embezzlement in Florida, it’s crucial that you take it seriously. Part of that means understanding what you’re charged with and what your next steps should be.
What is Embezzlement?
Embezzlement occurs when an individual entrusted with money or property because of their position (employment) or relationships takes ownership of or “borrows” that money or property without permission of the owner.
A few key elements to an embezzlement charge include the way something is stolen, even if it stays visible or in the presence of the owner.
If someone has a claim to the money, for example, and someone is using it, the owner might not know if any is missing if they’re not keeping track. In many cases, this happens at businesses where multiple people have access to funds. Still, unlawful spending, even if someone has legal access, is against Florida law.
Likewise, taking property you have access to and using it as your own is also embezzlement. This case is also seen a lot in business, with many finding equipment or property to be in an individual’s control, when it’s not their property to begin with.
Lastly, if something is loaned to an individual legally, but the person never attempts to return the property, that is also considered embezzlement under Florida law.
Embezzlement is often seen as a white-collar crime, meaning that many cases involve businesses or business relationships. Employees can embezzle property as well as money, including taking things they have access to through their jobs and using the item or items as their own. The punishment for embezzlement nationally is fairly hefty, and in Florida, embezzlement charges are also quite harsh.
What is the Punishment for Embezzlement in Florida?
The charges in Florida for embezzlement are largely based on theft statutes. The punishment goes hand in hand, like theft, with the severity of what has been stolen.
Embezzlement can be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony depending on the items taken and their value and whether the accused has previous embezzlement convictions.
For example, the embezzlement of up to $300 worth of goods or money is a first-degree misdemeanor and punishable by up to one year in jail.
Embezzlement of less than $100 may lead to a second-degree misdemeanor charge and up to 60 days in jail.
Individuals charged with embezzling particular items or property valued at over $300, or those who have a previous conviction for embezzlement, may be charged with a felony.
Embezzlement of property valued at $300 but at less than $20,000, a firearm, a will, a livestock animal, a fire extinguisher, drugs, over 2,000 pieces of citrus fruit (this is Florida), or a stop sign is considered a third-degree felony and is punishable by up to 5 years in prison, five years of probation, and up to a $5,000 fine.
Embezzlement of property that is valued at $20,000 or more but less than $100,000 is considered a second-degree felony. Embezzlement of less than $50,000 of cargo and emergency medical equipment of $300 or more are also considered third-degree felonies and punishable by up to 15 years in prison, 15 years of probation, and a fine of up to $10,000.
If you are believed to have embezzled property valued at $100,000 or more, cargo valued at $50,000 or more, or goods during a state of emergency, then you may be charged with a first-degree felony, which is punishable by up to 30 years in prison, 30 years of probation, and a fine of up to $10,000.
The definitions of the different charges can get murky because they are not based solely on the value of the property and include special circumstances such as a state of emergency. For clarity, be sure to schedule a consultation with Mike G Law.
Can I Defend Myself Against Charges?
Like any crime, you can defend yourself from embezzlement in the state of Florida, but it’s generally not advised. Having a skilled defense attorney on your side can help you provide a cohesive legal defense and help with negotiations if you opt for a plea deal.
There are two types of defenses that are popular in embezzlement cases.
Good faith of ownership or right to the property can be used as an effective defense. When using this defense, the goal is to show that your actions shouldn’t be considered stealing because you believe you had been given the property or goods. Texts, documents, or other proof that someone expressed the transfer of the good or property to you are useful when using this defense.
Similarly, you can defend yourself from embezzlement if you can show the property was entrusted to you.
Embezzlement Impacts Your Future
If you’re found guilty of embezzlement, your record will reflect this, and it may be harder to find work and to build trust with employers. Because most individuals charged with embezzlement are in positions of trust in their jobs or communities, a guilty charge will negatively impact their ability to secure such a position in the future. That means some individuals will need to seek out completely different careers after concluding their sentences.
Plus, if you are required to make restitution, you may literally be paying for your mistake for years to come, impacting your ability to make a living or take care of your family in the future.
Make sure you give yourself a fighting chance—contact Mike G Law to get one of the area’s best defense attorneys on your side.
Facing Embezzlement Charges? Call Mike G Law
The best way to put forth a good defense is to seek the counsel of a skilled Tampa defense attorney as soon as possible. Even if you’re only being investigated and have not yet been charged with anything, seeking legal advice can help you steer clear of any law enforcement traps.
Mike G fights for his clients’ rights and works hard to get them the best possible outcome. As a former prosecutor, he knows the other side’s tricks and will help you navigate the minefield of the justice system.
Fight for your future. Contact Mike G Law today and get the legal advice you need.