Embezzlement is a theft crime. Depending on the circumstances, these charges could be a misdemeanor or a felony, and could be a state or federal charge. If you are facing embezzlement charges, the situation is serious but not hopeless. The first step you should take is seeking representation from a seasoned criminal attorney. An aggressive NoVa embezzlement lawyer could help you present a robust defense and achieve the most satisfactory outcome the circumstances allow.
Under Virginia Code §18.2-111 embezzlement involves taking something of value, usually money, from someone else. What distinguishes embezzlement from other theft crimes is that the accused had the rightful owner’s permission to handle the property. The crime occurs when someone keeps the money or property for themselves or someone else. A prosecutor must prove each element of this crime beyond a reasonable doubt to get a conviction. The following elements comprise the crime of embezzlement:
This offense often occurs in employment situations when a bookkeeper, manager, or other person who handles receivables allegedly “cooks the books” to cover their theft of company funds. Stockbrokers, investment advisors, and attorneys in NoVa could face embezzlement charges if they are accused of misappropriating client funds.
There is no minimum amount that someone must divert to be charged with embezzlement. A person in a position of trust who intentionally diverts anything of value from the rightful owner could face an embezzlement charge. If the value of the allegedly embezzled property is less than $1,000, the prosecutor could charge the accused with a misdemeanor. The penalty upon conviction is restitution, a $2500 fine, and up to one year in prison. If the value is $1,000 or more, the crime is a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. A prosecutor could charge multiple alleged acts of embezzlement over six months as a single crime. The total amounts allegedly diverted would be combined, and in this way, repeated embezzlement of small amounts could support a felony charge. A lawyer in NoVa could help someone accused of embezzlement mitigate the potential penalties.
As noted above, a prosecutor must prove all four elements of the crime to obtain an embezzlement conviction. A NoVa lawyer could raise several defenses that might cast sufficient doubt on the prosecution’s embezzlement case to achieve an acquittal for the client. In many cases, raising the defenses prior to trial could convince a prosecutor to offer a plea agreement or dismiss all charges.
To be guilty of embezzlement, the individual accused of diverting property must have had legal access to it due to being in a position of trust. In legal terms, this is called a fiduciary relationship between the owner and the accused. In some cases, the position of trust might not be clear-cut. Any ambiguity in the accused’s relationship with the property owner or their discretion to access the property could provide an opportunity to assert that there was no fiduciary relationship.
An accused also could challenge the prosecutor on the issue of intent. If the accused believed they had the authority to handle the property as they did, there is no intent to steal or defraud. A prosecutor could use circumstantial evidence to prove intent. However, an accused could present evidence of misunderstanding or mistake that might be sufficient to raise reasonable doubt in a juror’s mind.
It could be intimidating and disheartening to face embezzlement charges. You may feel worried about the penalties that go along with conviction and the effects this offense could have on your future. A seasoned NoVa embezzlement lawyer could investigate the details of the prosecutor’s allegations and exploit any weaknesses in their evidence. Reach out as soon as possible to start building your defense.
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