Embezzlement is a specific kind of financial fraud, typically committed by individuals misappropriating funds from their employers. The main difference between embezzlement and theft is that in the former, the employee had the right to handle property or funds by the employer but chose to use it for his purposes. If you are convicted of embezzlement, you may have to pay monetary fines, spend time in jail, or sometimes both, depending on the circumstances. Even though returning the amount does not absolve you, the court may award a lesser sentence after considering many aspects like the extent of the embezzlement, the harm caused by it, how it was carried out, etc. Whether embezzlement is a misdemeanor or a felony depends on the amount of money involved.
Dropping of Embezzlement Charges
You might be eligible for a lesser sentence depending on various factors. These include whether the state treats it as a misdemeanor or a felony, the amount, extent of damage, etc. The court may let you off if there is insufficient evidence against you. According to SmallBiznet, companies lose around five percent of their revenues every year to employee fraud and occupational abuse. Even though a large number of federal embezzlement charges are dropped due to inadequate evidence, it is important to note that the jury must declare the defendant not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt after considering the evidence presented.
Common Defenses to Embezzlement
Absence of essential elements: As per law, to prove embezzlement, there must be a fiduciary relationship between the defendant and the party owning the asset or property. The defendant must have gained possession of the asset due to the fiduciary relationship. The defendant must have used the fiduciary relationship to acquire the asset to deprive the owner permanently and that the action by the defendant was intentional.
Duress: If the defendant can prove that he was forced to embezzle the money to prevent danger to him, the court may consider acquittal. However, family hardship or addiction does not qualify, say lawyers for embezzlement charges.
Entrapment: It may occur if the state compels you to commit a crime that you would not have ordinarily committed. It is distinct from duress.
Lack of intent: You can get a charge of embezzlement dismissed if the prosecution cannot establish intent. In many cases, the accused person may believe that they were the true owners of the asset or money and hence not committing a crime.
Incapacity: If the accused can prove that he was mentally incapacitated and it was because of it that the embezzlement had happened, the charges may be dropped. While genuine mistakes under the effect of medication, for example, may be allowed, claims of insanity are unlikely to be entertained.
Ignorance of the law is not a valid defense, however, if you had thought you were reasonably entitled to the money or assets, the court may be inclined to drop the charges. If you made an honest mistake, you are unlikely to be charged with embezzlement, however, only an experienced lawyer will be able to help you convince the court that you had no intent to commit a crime.