Many people consider embezzlement the type of white-collar crime that ends with doing time in “country club” prisons. That impression could make you take embezzlement charges less seriously than you should.
In Florida, embezzlement charges are typically felony charges with appropriately severe penalties. If you are charged with embezzlement, hire an experienced Tampa embezzlement lawyer.
What Is Embezzlement in Florida?
Florida doesn’t have specific embezzlement charges. Instead, any form of theft via fraud is charged under state theft laws. Embezzlement involves fraudulently appropriating funds entrusted to your care for another purpose.
Elements of Embezzlement
If you have been charged with embezzlement, the prosecutor will attempt to prove the following elements:
- You were entrusted with authority over the finances or real property of another party
- You fraudulently violated that trust
- That violation resulted in your financial benefit
You can even be charged with embezzlement if you temporarily absconded with the money and later returned it if you used that money for financial gain while you possessed it.
What Isn’t Embezzlement?
Fraud is one of the key elements of embezzlement. A cashier who pockets some of the daily profits while transferring it to the safe is committing embezzlement when they misrepresent the amount of money that was in the till. A cashier who steals the tip jar is just committing theft.
Similarly, you must have been entrusted with finances or real property to commit embezzlement. If a shelf stocker reached into the safe and stole a few hundred dollars while the cashier was distracted and then claimed that money was never there, that stocker wouldn’t have committed embezzlement as they never had authority over that money.
Consequences of an Embezzlement Conviction
The penalties of an embezzlement conviction depend on how much money you are charged with stealing. It doesn’t take much for a theft charge to be a felony, so most embezzlement charges are felonies.
You can be charged with a misdemeanor if you are alleged to have stolen less than $300. The maximum penalty for this charge is 11 months and 29 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. That maximum penalty is reduced to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine if you stole less than $100.
There are three degrees of felonies that you can be charged with, depending on how much money you are alleged to have stolen. If you are alleged to have stolen over $100,000, you will be charged with a felony in the first degree. This is reduced to second-degree for $20,000 or more and reduced to third-degree for any value between $300 and $20,000.
The penalties for these charges are:
- First-degree: Up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine
- Second-degree: Up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine
- Third-degree: Up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine
As you can see, the consequences are quite severe, even for embezzling as little as $300.
Additionally, if you are convicted of a felony in Florida, you will lose your right to vote until you have fully completed your sentence and paid all fines. You will also lose your right to own a firearm.
Defending Against Embezzlement Charges
If you are facing embezzlement charges, our law firm will fight to prove your innocence, get the charges dropped, or minimize the penalties, depending on the situation. We approach every case differently, but the following are common defenses we apply.
Violation of Rights
Embezzlement charges often involve complex financial documentation. The first thing we often do is confirm it was all acquired legally by the state. If the state fails to get proper warrants or uses privileged information to make its case, we will petition a judge to dismiss the charges.
Lack of Intent
Embezzlement is an intentional act. If you redirected money inappropriately by accident, you didn’t commit a crime. You likely won’t get your job back, but the prosecutor may drop the charges, or a jury might find you not guilty.
Insufficient Evidence to Support Charges
Prosecutors often overcharge. Even if they have enough evidence to show wrongdoing, often they don’t have enough to support the highest charges. This gives us room to negotiate a plea agreement that can help you avoid felony charges and jail time.
Embezzlement Charge FAQs
Can I Get an Embezzlement Conviction Expunged?
You can’t get a conviction expunged in Florida. However, if the charges were dropped or dismissed, you can get your criminal record sealed.
Will I Be Sent to Jail if Convicted of Embezzlement?
That primarily depends on how much money you were convicted of stealing and your criminal history. We can probably get you probation if you were alleged of stealing a few thousand dollars at most and have no criminal history.
Contact a Tampa Embezzlement Defense Lawyer Today
If you have been arrested for embezzlement, you should take those charges seriously. All but the least serious charges could result in you spending years in prison and permanently having a felony conviction on your record.
Our law firm fights to protect the rights of criminal defendants in Florida. We will do everything we can to keep you out of jail and keep your record as clean as possible. Contact Metcalf Falls immediately at (813) 258-4800 to consult with a lawyer who cares.