Embezzlement is a form of theft ordinarily committed by a person who was entrusted with money or property such as a bank teller, company officers whose functions include managing company funds, and professionals who handle client’s money or investments.
In Florida, embezzlement is a white collar crime that is punished under theft laws. Just like theft, embezzlement involves a taking of property that is owned by another, for one’s personal gain. The difference between theft and embezzlement lies in the defendant’s legal access to the property such as when the property owner entrusts possession or control over his funds or property to the defendant.
Types of Embezzlement
Embezzlement may be charged as a misdemeanor or felony, and in varying degrees, depending on the type of property taken or the value of the property involved.
First Degree Felony
Embezzlement may be charged and punished as a felony in the first degree when the property taken:
- Is valued at $100,000 or more;
- Is cargo from a shipper’s loading platform valued at $50,000 or more; or
- When the property was taken during a state of emergency declared by the Governor.
Penalties for embezzlement as a felony in the first degree include jail time of up to 30 years, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
Second Degree Felony
Embezzlement may be charged and punished as a felony in the second degree when:
- The property taken is valued at $20,000 or more, but not more than $100,000;
- The property taken is cargo from a shipper’s loading platform valued at less than $50,000;
- The defendant took emergency medical equipment valued at $300 or more;
- The defendant took law enforcement equipment valued at $300 or more; or
- The defendant coordinated with one or more persons for the purpose of embezzling money or property worth more than $3,000;
- Property taken falls under felony of the third degree when stolen during a state of emergency.
Embezzlement felony in the second degree is punished with imprisonment of up to 15 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
Third Degree Felony
The white crime of embezzlement may be charged as a felony in the third degree when the property taken is:
- Valued at $300 or more but not more than $20,000;
- A firearm
- Commercially-farmed animal
- Fire extinguisher
- Citrus fruit consisting of 2,000 or more pieces
- Any controlled substance
- Valued at not less than $100 but not more than $300, taken from a dwelling or surrounding property
A charge of misdemeanor embezzlement may be elevated to a felony in the 3rd degree if the defendant has 3 or more prior convictions of misdemeanor embezzlement.
The penalty for embezzlement felony in the third degree is imprisonment of up to 5 years, a fine of not more than $5,000, or both.
Misdemeanor of 1st Degree
It is a misdemeanor in the 1st degree when the value of embezzled property is at least $100 but not more than $300, or when the defendant already has 1 or 2 prior misdemeanor theft convictions. The penalty for 1st degree misdemeanor embezzlement is a fine of up to $1,000, imprisonment of up to 1 year, or both.
Any other embezzlement not falling under the misdemeanor of 1st degree and the other embezzlement felonies may be punished as a 2nd degree misdemeanor. The penalty for 2nd degree misdemeanor embezzlement is a fine of not more than $500 or jail time of not more than 60 days.
Prosecution must prove that the accused was entrusted with the offended party’s property and that the accused later intentionally took, spent, or used the entrusted property without the consent of the property owner. Thus, in a charge for embezzlement, the following defenses may be raised:
- That the defendant believed in good faith that he owned or had the right to possess the property;
- That the property owner gave his consent beyond the initial consent when the property was entrusted to the defendant.
- Importance of criminal defense attorney
Embezzlement is a serious charge. Apart from the possibility of spending time in jail and paying steep fines, a conviction for theft can make it difficult for you to get a good job, obtain a professional license, or maintain a good reputation. If you are charged with embezzlement, you may be entitled to defenses that can either dismiss the charge against you or reduce the charge from felony embezzlement to a misdemeanor.
It’s important that you immediately consult a criminal defense attorney who can weigh the evidence against you and provide appropriate advice about your next steps.
In Stuart, Florida, the Law Offices of Keith Bregoff possess the added advantage of being able to anticipate strategies and legal moves of the prosecution. Attorney Bregoff’s experience as a former lead felony state prosecutor helped to hone his skills as a litigation attorney for more than 23 years now. Call us today at (772) 492-8967 to schedule a free consultation with Attorney Bregoff.