Categories of Theft Crimes in Florida Part 4: Embezzlement
This month, we end our series on theft categories in Florida by exploring embezzling charges.
Embezzlement is a form of white-collar theft that carries hefty penalties. Florida takes this crime seriously, so if you or someone you know has been accused of embezzlement, this blog is for you.
This article broadly explores Florida’s laws on embezzlement, explains the penalties in the state, and offers defenses against these charges.
Embezzlement is a very specific form of theft. One person, often an employee, is entrusted with another person's property. Instead of using this property as intended, the offender takes it and uses it for their own purposes.
The act of embezzlement can involve skimming funds off the top of a company's accounts or diverting company funds into a personal bank account without authorization.
These key elements of embezzlement are fraud and a breach of trust.
Overview of Florida’s Embezzlement Law
Florida recognizes two different types of embezzlement: labor and corporate.
Labor embezzlement occurs when an employee steals or embezzles funds from their employer.
Corporate embezzlement, on the other hand, involves a member of a corporation or partnership stealing money from the business.
For the crime to be considered embezzlement, someone must have given the alleged offender access to the funds in their regular capacity. The alleged suspect, then, must intentionally take the funds for themselves.
Penalties for Embezzlement Convictions in Florida
In Florida, the penalties for embezzlement vary depending on the amount of money stolen. Embezzlement can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
For embezzlement of more than $100,000, the charge is a first-degree felony. This can result in up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
For amounts between $20,000 and $100,000, it is a second-degree felony. This is penalized by up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
And for amounts less than $20,000, it is a third-degree felony. This is punishable by up to 5 years in prison in fines as high as $5,000.
Defenses Against an Embezzlement Charge
Lack of Intent
You can argue that you did not mean to steal or misuse funds. This defense asserts that any misappropriation was accidental or unintentional.
Lack of Evidence
Another defense is to challenge the evidence presented by the prosecution. Financial crimes are often hard to prove, and insufficient or weak evidence can raise a reasonable doubt.
As with any crime, you can claim that the accusation itself is false. This defense argues that the accused is being wrongly accused or framed for the crime.
Consent or Authorization
You may be able to prove that you had consent or authorization to handle the funds in question. The claim argues that you had a legitimate right to access and use the funds.
Good Faith Belief
The defense asserts that you acted in good faith and believed they were authorized to use the funds the way you did.
Steps to Take when Facing an Embezzlement Charge in Florida
- Hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer who has handled similar cases before. They will help you understand the charges against you and develop a strategy to fight the case.
- Avoid speaking to anyone besides your lawyer about the case. Doing so can help you inadvertently incriminate yourself.
- Gather and preserve any evidence that supports your innocence, such as documentation of financial transactions.