One of the most commonly-charged white-collar crimes is that of embezzlement. The term “embezzlement” is used to describe the theft of another person’s or entity’s property by abusing a position of trust. This is not a simple theft offense; instead, it involves an individual with the trust or authority to handle the assets of the reporting witness. A crime occurs when someone misuses those assets.
If you have been charged with embezzlement, it is crucial that you seek the guidance of a seasoned white-collar defense attorney immediately. The state will not hesitate in bringing a case against you, so any delay in speaking with a Columbia embezzlement lawyer could work against you.
The criminal offense of embezzlement is covered by South Carolina Code of Laws § 16-13-210. Under the law, there are different acts that could qualify as embezzlement and a Columbia attorney could assist with the defense of each of them.
State embezzlement laws apply to any individual tasked with the “safekeeping, transfer, and disbursement of public funds.” When an individual in that position is found to have used these funds for their own purposes, they could be charged with embezzlement.
Charges of embezzlement must focus on more than the fact that the defendant was in a position of trust. The prosecution must also establish that the defendant used those funds for unauthorized purposes despite knowing the money was not intended for them.
The legal definition of embezzlement is narrow, and for that reason, there could be times when the allegations made against the accused simply do not meet the bar for an embezzlement case. That does not mean other criminal charges might not be appropriate, but those charges could carry lower penalties. In that situation, an attorney could potentially negotiate a plea bargain with a lesser sentence.
Any conviction for embezzlement could lead to serious consequences. However, the amount of money allegedly involved in the embezzlement will determine the extent of the criminal penalties that follow a conviction. A Columbia embezzlement attorney could explain what penalties might apply in a given case.
The important figure to be aware of in these cases is $10,000. Anyone convicted of embezzling less than that amount could face as much as five years in prison. Those convicted of taking more than that amount could spend up to 10 years behind bars. In addition to prison time, there are also other consequences like steep fines to consider.
Every criminal offense has some form of potential defense, and embezzlement charges are no exception. One of the most important defense considerations is that of intent. Embezzlement is a crime of intent, meaning that unknowingly misusing these funds is not necessarily a crime. Accounting errors could also have the potential to lead to false charges of embezzlement. Many of the transactions are large and complex but innocent accounting errors could look like an act of embezzlement in some cases.
Embezzlement is a serious offense and anyone charged with this crime should aggressively pursue a defense strategy. An attorney could review your options and advise you on the best approach to your defense. Let a Columbia embezzlement lawyer assist you with the complicated challenge of defending yourself against these allegations. Call today to get started.