Embezzlement is a specific form of theft that is defined as the fraudulent appropriation of property by a person to whom such property has been entrusted, or into whose hands it came lawfully. Under Florida law, the crime of embezzlement is covered under the general statutes prohibiting theft of any kind. The difference between other kinds of theft and embezzlement is that an alleged embezzler is given possession, custody, or control of the money or item of value by its owner or another authorized person.
Florida Embezzlement Penalties
The penalties for embezzlement in Florida are tough and increase in severity as the value of the property rises or under circumstances making the offense more egregious. Anyone facing embezzlement theft charges needs to reach out to an experienced and committed criminal defense lawyer immediately. Embezzlement defense attorneys can often develop productive approaches to help accused embezzlers that may not be possible with other crimes.
First-Degree Felony: Embezzlement of $100,000 or more from a person or a company is a first-degree felony carrying up to 30 years in prison, plus probation, and fines. This is also the penalty for anyone who embezzles $50,000 or more of cargo from a company’s loading dock, or for any embezzlement occurring in a county under a state of emergency that was declared by the Governor of Florida.
Second-Degree Felony: If the property embezzled is valued at $20,000 or more but less than $100,000, a sentence of up to 15 years in prison and $10,000 in fines for the second-degree felony may be imposed. The same holds true if the stolen property was cargo valued at less than $50,000 and was embezzled from a company’s loading dock by a company employee. It’s also a second-degree felony to collude with someone to embezzle anything more than $3,000.
Third-Degree Felony: A prison sentence of up to 5 years for a third-degree felony can be imposed for any embezzlement of money or property worth more than $300 but less the $20,000. It’s also a third-degree felony to embezzle certain items, regardless of their value, including a firearm, a will or other testamentary document, a fire extinguisher, any amount of controlled substance, or a stop sign. It may seem like a list of dissimilar items, but the theft of any one of them can cause great harm. Embezzling any farmed animal or embezzling 2000 or more pieces of citrus fruit is also prosecuted as a third-degree felony. Fines and probation are possible with any level of grand theft felony; first, second, or third-degree.
Misdemeanors: There are also degrees of severity applied to less valuable embezzlements which are treated as misdemeanors. Cases involving less than $100 can carry a sentence of up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. But any theft by embezzlement in which the property taken is valued between $100 and $300 constitutes a first-degree misdemeanor and can result in up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Who Can Be Charged with Embezzlement?
Embezzlement theft can be committed any time someone who has control of other people’s money decides to use it for their own purposes. Embezzlement charges are typically filed against company bookkeepers or account managers responsible for recording the business’s bill collections and purchases.
Other cases of embezzlement involve trustees of funds who are supposed to guard the trust’s assets for the benefit of the trust beneficiary or sometimes a high-ranking company officer may dip into the company’s money to pay for personal expenses. But embezzlement laws also apply to a loading dock worker who helps themselves to a couple of cases of the company’s product. Anyone who has control of someone else’s money or property and uses it for their own purpose without authorization can be guilty of embezzlement.
Defenses to Embezzlement Charges
At the Stechschulte Nell criminal defense law firm in Tampa, defending clients accused of a crime is the central focus of our legal practice. Our experience helping protect the freedom and reputation of our clients enables us to provide the highest quality defense in your case.
Embezzlement is a crime for which the prosecution must prove certain elements beyond a reasonable doubt to obtain a conviction. A few of the ways we defend embezzlement charges are listed here:
- the defendant had a good faith belief the property was theirs or they were authorized to use it as they did,
- the defendant possessed no criminal intent,
- the property’s owner granted an ownership interest to the defendant in the property,
- ownership of the property is in question.
In some cases, especially where the defendant is suffering mental illness or living with a compulsive disorder or substance use disorder, restitution and non-criminal outcomes may be possible.
Florida “Theft” Statute Covers Embezzlement (Grand Theft)
Florida law does not use the word “embezzlement” as a special crime any longer. Instead, charges will be filed under the Theft statute If you or someone you know is charged with embezzlement under Florida’s Theft Statute:
Section 812.014 – Theft
(1) A person commits theft if he or she knowingly obtains or uses, or endeavors to obtain or to use, the property of another with intent to, either temporarily or permanently:
(a) Deprive the other person of a right to the property or a benefit from the property.
(b) Appropriate the property to his or her own use or to the use of any person not entitled to the use of the property. Fla. Stat. § 812.014(1)(a)-(b)
Florida adopted a criminal statute that joined several crimes under one chapter that were historically separated. Florida’s statute prohibits anyone from “obtaining or using” property intending to deprive the owner of its benefit or to convert it to your own use without the right to do so. The state accomplished this simplified method of prosecuting different thefts by defining the words “obtain or use” as including any acts that were historically called “stealing; larceny; purloining; abstracting; embezzlement; misapplication; misappropriation; conversion; or obtaining money or property by false pretenses, fraud, or deception.”
As American law evolved from British law, including legal principles and theories dating back hundreds of years, Florida’s modernized view of the laws covering larceny and theft states more clearly exactly what is illegal.
Charged with Embezzlement?
At Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law, we pride ourselves on our mastery of conventional defense techniques and our ability to innovate creative strategies to defend our clients.
If you want seasoned professionals to provide your criminal defense in the Tampa-St. Pete-Clearwater area, you’ll want to call Attorneys Ben Stechschulte and Amy Nell or email email@example.com.
Trust experienced criminal defense lawyers — Contact Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law for a case review today; 813-280-1244.