Embezzlement is a type of theft that is characterized by an abuse of trust or power. In order to be convicted of the crime of embezzlement, you must have been granted access to money or other assets that were not yours, and kept them for your own gain.
This is distinguishable from a standard theft in which one sought out and stole something that was not theirs, rather than being entrusted with access to the item prior to the theft. It is a serious crime that is punished based on the value of the property that was stolen in the State of Texas.
Punishments can range from a fine of $500 for embezzlement of less than $50 worth of property, up to a fine of $10,000 and 5-99 years in prison for embezzling over $200,000. Texas also considers aggravating factors including if someone embezzled from an elderly person (over 65), a nonprofit organization, while they were serving as a public servant, or if they were in a contractual relationship with the government.
There are a number of ways in which a person can be charged with embezzlement, including numerous opportunities to be falsely charged—particularly in situations where you were granted some sort of financial authority within a company.
Fortunately, there are also a number of potential defenses that can be used to fight back against embezzlement charges. We have detailed five of the most common below:
1) Demonstrate that you did not take the money
This defense is very straightforward and relatively simple, but is likely your best option to prove the charges against you are false. Your attorney will seek to find any evidence that proves you did not actually take the money you are accused of embezzling.
2) Demonstrate you took the money for legitimate business purposes
One of the most common reasons for being falsely charged with embezzlement is when you did actually take money from your company, but you did so for legitimate and authorized business purposes rather than your own gain. You will need to show that you had reasonable business reasons for taking the money which you’ve been accused of embezzling, and that you did not do anything with the money for personal gain.
3) Insufficient evidence
If you can disprove an underlying assumption that is key to the premise that you are guilty of embezzlement, or demonstrate that there is reasonable doubt about any key aspect of the charges, then the charges may be dropped for insufficient evidence.
4) Absence of intent to commit a crime
It is genuinely impossible to accidentally commit embezzlement, such as in a case where you believed you were the actual owner of the embezzled property. You must have know that the property you were stealing was not yours in order for the act to be considered criminal embezzlement.
If for some reason you genuinely believed some harm would come to you or a loved one if you did not embezzle, then you may be able to prove you acted under duress, which could result in an acquittal of the charges. However, there is a fine line in embezzlement cases for this defense. For example, it would not be considered duress if you embezzled simply to provide for your family. There must be an implication that harm will come as a direct result of you not committing the crime, so you could potentially argue duress if a boss threatened to fire you if you did not participate in a plot to embezzle from the company.
No matter the circumstances, if you have been charged with embezzlement it is vital that you immediately seek out an experienced defense attorney. Please contact the Whalen Law Office today.