If you work in an organization as a team leader, accountant, bookkeeper, or chief financial officer, it’s likely that you will have access to company finances. Because of this trusted position and the sensitive nature of the information you handle on a daily basis, you might assume that it’s impossible for you to be accused of embezzling company funds.
With so much at stake (including jail time), if you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, it is important that you consult with a legal professional as soon as possible to understand your rights and obligations under the law. In this blog post, learn more about embezzlement charges, penalties if convicted, and the need for a strong criminal defense.
What is Embezzlement?
Embezzlement is the act of using another person’s money or assets for one’s own profit without their consent. Embezzlement can occur in any organization, including government agencies and nonprofits. It is often committed by employees who have been entrusted with money or assets that they are responsible for managing and who then divert those funds for their own use.
Embezzlement can occur when an employee is given money or assets to invest or manage on behalf of the company and then fails to invest or manage that money or those assets as agreed. It can also occur when an employee has access to company funds but does not have the authority to make withdrawals or otherwise use those funds for their own purposes.
What Constitutes Embezzlement?
In order to be charged with embezzlement, an individual must have diverted funds from their business or organization for their own personal use.
Some signs that you could be charged with embezzlement include:
- You mismanaged funds on behalf of your employer
- You diverted funds for your own use
- The funds were used for something other than what they were intended for
Penalties for Embezzlement
The penalties for embezzling funds from your employer depending on the number of funds in question, your criminal history, and the jurisdiction where you are charged. In general, the larger the number of funds you are alleged to have taken, the more serious the charges and potential penalties are.
Some common penalties for embezzlement in Savannah are:
- If the amount of funds you diverted is less than $500, you can be charged with a misdemeanor and face a maximum of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
- If the amounts exceed $500, you could face $1,000 in fines and a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
Certain factors can also contribute to the severity of the penalties. These include embezzling:
- Public money
- When you have a fiduciary duty
- Motor vehicle parts
- Unharvested commercial agricultural products
- Money from seniors
Strategies for Defending Yourself
As soon as you learn that you are facing embezzlement charges, you should speak to a criminal defense attorney. The attorneys of the law firm Phillips Carson Phillips in Savannah Georgia are experienced criminal defense attorneys and can help you defend yourself against embezzlement accusations. The sooner you hire an attorney, the more time they will have to investigate the case and gather evidence in your favor. Depending on the situation, your criminal defense attorney may recommend one of these defenses:
You Were Authorized to Use the Funds for Your Own Purposes
If you are accused of using funds for your own personal benefit, an attorney can argue that your actions were authorized. For example, if you owned a restaurant and used the restaurant’s profits to purchase new equipment, you may argue that this was a legitimate business expense.
You may also be able to argue that your actions were authorized if you created a legitimate contract with the company. For example, if you signed a lease in which you agreed to purchase new equipment, this could be considered an authorized expense.
The Funds Were Used to Pay Business Debts
If it is believed that the money was transferred to cover business debts, it may be possible to claim that paying these debts was a legitimate business expense. In this situation, you may be able to argue that the debt was significant enough that the company could not have continued without paying it.
The Funds Were Used To Pay For Supplies
Some embezzlement charges may arise when you have an obligation to make withdrawals from company accounts but instead use the funds for another purpose. If you are accused of using company funds for your own personal use and then spending them on supplies, this may be considered a legitimate business expense.
Contact a Savannah Criminal Defense Attorney Today
If you find yourself facing embezzlement charges, it is important to understand the charges against you, the potential penalties, and the strategies that you can use to defend yourself. You want to get a a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to allow them time to work on your behalf, to investigate, and prepare your defense.
With the right legal strategy, you may be able to get embezzlement charges against you reduced or even dismissed. In the worst-case scenario, an attorney can work to reduce your sentence and help you to move past this unfortunate experience as quickly as possible.
Phillips Carson Phillips is a trusted and experienced Savannah criminal defense attorney that is available to help. Contact us to schedule a consultation by calling (912) 232-0081 or using our online contact form.