Embezzlement is a type of larceny that involves the taking of property from someone who has trusted you with its care and management. This crime can be committed in a variety of circumstances, but it’s most commonly committed by financial advisors or other people who have been put in charge of someone else’s money. The following elements must be present for embezzlement to take place:
- There has to be a financial relationship between the victim and the perpetrator (often referred to as a “fiduciary relationship”).
- The perpetrator gained access to the property because of the relationship and transferred it to a personal account or to some other party.
- The perpetrator’s actions were intentional.
The last one is a major factor for embezzlement to occur, which can be referred to as “fraudulent intent.” If a financial advisor accidentally transfers a client’s property or believes that this person has given him or her authorization do so when it has never been given, it usually isn’t considered embezzlement.
Embezzlement Laws in the State of Texas
In the State of Texas, embezzlement charges will carry the same penalties as theft and will be punished according to the value or type of stolen property. Enhanced penalties can be applied if it involves a vulnerable victim or if the offender acts in a certain way. In addition to prison time and fines, a judge can order you to pay restitution (which is a form of compensation) to the victim.
The penalties for embezzlement charges are based on certain value categories, which include the following:
- Less than $100 — This kind of embezzlement offense is considered a Class C Misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of up to $500. However, a second offense is considered a Class B Misdemeanor.
- At least $100 but less than $750 — This kind of offense is considered a Class B Misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine.
- At least $750 but less than $2,500 — This kind of offense is considered a Class A Misdemeanor, which carries a punishment of up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine. But if you had two or more theft convictions, it can be enhanced to a State Jail Felony.
- At least $2,500 but less than $30,000 — This kind of embezzlement offense is considered a State Jail Felony, which is punishable by a prison sentence from 180 days to two years and fine of up to $10,000. If you embezzle livestock, precious metals, or firearms (regardless of their value), the crime can also be considered a State Jail Felony.
- At least $30,000 but less than $150,000 — This kind of embezzlement offense is considered a Third-Degree Felony, which can carry a prison sentence of 2-10 years and a fine of up to $10,000. Embezzling cattle, horses, or drugs (regardless of their value) will also be classified as a Third-Degree Felony.
- At least $150,000 but less than $300,000 — This kind of offense will be classified as a Second-Degree Felony, which will carry a prison sentence of 2-20 years and fine of up to $10,000.
- $300,000 or more — This kind of offense is considered a First-Degree Felony, which is punishable by 5-99 years in prison and fine of up to $10,000.
Certain enhanced penalties will apply to embezzlement charges under the following circumstances:
- The victim was elderly (65 or older).
- The victim was a nonprofit organization.
- The defendant was a public servant.
- The defendant was in a contractual relationship with the government (including Medicare providers).
If you’re facing embezzlement charges, be sure to speak to a criminal defense lawyer in Corpus Christi to help you with your case.
Possible Defenses to Embezzlement Charges
If you have been charged with embezzlement, you should seek the help of an attorney who is familiar with all the possible defenses. Some of them can include but may not be limited to:
- Entrapment — When the government tries to set you up or coerces you to involve yourself in a crime that you wouldn’t have otherwise committed, you can use this as a possible defense. If the government sets up “bait assets” to get you to commit embezzlement, this can also be seen as entrapment.
- Insufficient Evidence — This kind of defense may seem obvious, but almost 42% of embezzlement cases get dropped because there wasn’t enough evidence.
- Absence of Intent — Like most crimes, embezzlement requires intent. So to be guilty of this crime, you must have deliberately tried to take assets from someone else for your own personal gain. If you didn’t realize the assets belonged to someone else, the case could get dismissed. This kind of defense can also work if you didn’t plan to permanently deprive that person of his or her assets.
- Duress — While this is rare for an embezzlement case, it can be viable defense (depending on the circumstances). If you think you will be harmed or put in danger unless you commit a crime, you can use duress as a defense in your case.
- Incapacity — This is also uncommon for an embezzlement case, but it might apply to your situation. If you were mentally incapacitated when you committed the crime, you could use it as a defense.
If you have been charged with embezzlement and are looking for the best criminal defense attorney in Corpus Christi to help you with your case, be sure to get in touch with Gale Law Group.