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Embezzlement Penalties

Embezzlement Penalties

What is embezzlement and what are the charges you can be slapped with for being involved in such a crime? Let's have a look...
Puja Lalwani
The illegal transfer of property or funds from a business, for the purpose of personal use, is known as embezzlement. This usually occurs when the culprit has legal access to the property and funds, as he/she has been entrusted with its handling and care. This may be a part of the job. In such a case, it is possible that the culprit takes advantage of his/her position and uses the money for personal benefits, rather than using it for the designated purpose. In a corporate setting, embezzlement is an extremely common crime. Many a time, this type of money laundering is even common with public funds. However, if this crime is detected and reported, the associated penalties are also severe.

Proving Embezzlement
So that a culprit is charged with embezzlement, the victim must gather and provide complete evidence of the execution of such an act. This includes:
  • There should be an established professional relationship between the victim and the culprit.
  • The existence of legal documents that prove the culprit was responsible for, and had access to the property and funds in question.
  • Proof of the illegal possession of property and laundering of funds.
The lack of such evidence may lead to exceptions in the case, and may cause the culprit to be acquitted of the charges slapped on him/her. The case can be taken either to a civil or criminal court.

Embezzlement penalties may be civil in type, but they are no less severe than criminal charges. The laws for embezzlement vary from state to state, but there are certain common penalties that are slapped on the perpetrator. These include:
  • Jail time, which may last up to ten years if you have been caught for the embezzlement of public funds, and may even go up to twenty years.
  • Probation, ranging between three to five years or more.
  • Fines that do not exceed US $500,000 or twice the value of the funds or property that was misused, whichever is higher.
  • Community service, depending on the severity of the crime.
Not only this, penalties also include charges of felony, which means a significant damage to professional and personal reputation.

In certain cases, exceptions may be made.
  • In some cases, due to lack of evidence, the case may be dismissed. This is a common occurrence, as many a time, cases are slapped only on the basis of suspicion.
  • Many a time, people carry out such a grave crime only because they may be at a risk of losing their job. This is known as duress. It is applicable only in this case. A duress does not include the embezzlement of funds to support families, or addictions to drugs, etc.
  • When strong proof is provided that the culprit was mentally incapacitated, perhaps under the effect of heavy medication at the time of carrying out the crime, he/she may be excused by the court. However, mental incapacitation under the effect of alcohol is inexcusable.
  • When embezzlement is carried out without the intention of doing so, perhaps due to a misunderstanding, the charges against the accused may be dismissed.
The possibility of these exceptions being made is very low, and it requires not only strong evidence, but also a very convincing lawyer to be able to prove such situations.

To deal with the charges of embezzlement and to be able to evade the associated penalties, the culprit will have to appoint a criminal defense lawyer. A lawsuit that has been slapped by the company can take lots of years to settle. Sometimes, culprits hope to make up by restoring the stolen property or funds outside court. If that is possible, penalties can be evaded. Else, it may lead to a long, legal battle.