As an employee, you are expected to be honest and true to your responsibilities and your employer. Breaking trust for personal financial gain is a punishable offense and you must know all about its implications. And it is not just theft or fraud that makes you guilty for cheating a business; embezzlement is an equally adverse act. Essentially, embezzlement involves the siphoning of money or making use of assets you are authorized to use for business purposes, all for your personal gain. Although technically it sounds like theft, there are some differences that set this crime apart. Let us explain all that is covered under this crime when it comes to employment relationships.
Understanding embezzlement and its coverage
Although embezzlement cases are not confined only to businesses, they are most common for them. Employees can be regarded as guilty if they are given the responsibility of managing or money which belongs to the employer and they steal this money for their personal gain. The offenses can be more than just picking some money from the cash counter in a store. It can also include misdirecting electronic transfers, credit card frauds, and user credentials for stealing funds from bank accounts of the business.
Given the advances in technology and its use in business operations, there are many avenues that lie open for dishonest employees who want to misappropriate funds in one way or the other. One of the important aspects that you need to understand is that embezzlement involves the knowledge of the misuse of funds or assets. If an employee who misuses them truly believed that they were using it in an authorized way, they could be charged with stealing rather than embezzlement.
The penalty for embezzlement
Generally, embezzlement cases are examined at the state level, which means that consequences can vary depending on the location of the business. Typically, embezzlement is regarded as a felony and you may end up facing fines and jail time if found guilty. The fines can be significantly high, often proportional to the amount embezzled. Similarly, jail time also varies according to this amount. On the other hand, the case can be prosecuted at a federal level if a government department is involved.
These cases are complex and involve complicated financial investigations. Hence, it becomes important to have an attorney who specializes in criminal law and has experience in such cases to defend you in court. Someone with the right experience and knowledge can help you fight the charges. Since this is a serious accusation, the law enforcement agencies are empowered to acquire relevant documentation against the accused even without having to obtain a warrant. Once the prosecution has a strong case against you, proving your innocence becomes tougher.
When is a person guilty of embezzlement?
Considering the complex nature of these cases, it is important for employees and employers to understand when they actually have a valid case. There are four circumstances that are to be proved for a person to be guilty of the crime.
- The accused must be aware of the fact that taking the money in question is a criminal act
- They must know that it does not belong to them or they are not authorized to use it for the said purpose
- They must have an intent to steal the money from the business or the employer
- They must have been given the charge of the money by the business or the employer
It is clear that the main consideration behind whether a person is guilty is the knowledge of the purpose of the money and how it has to be used. This makes it all the more important to understand the meaning of embezzlement, particularly for the employees who manage accounts and funds as part of their job.
Defenses to embezzlement charges
Anyone who faces embezzlement charges is in serious trouble. There are good chances that you will be prosecuted unless your criminal defense attorney has a solid defense to prove otherwise. There are several options in defense that can be leveraged to save them. These include:
- Duress: When someone believes that not performing a certain act will lead to some type of harm, it is considered as a crime of duress. If you can prove that you embezzled due to duress, you can raise a strong defense. This can go a long way in getting you a favorable verdict.
- Incapacity: You can also defend the charges by proving that you were mentally incapacitated when the offense occurred.
- Insufficient evidence: A change can also be dismissed in the absence of adequate evidence to prosecute.
Considering the gravity of embezzlement as an offense, the extent of its penalties, and the complications of its litigation, it is best to have an expert handling your case. They can save you by using the right defense or even proving your innocence if that is the truth.