Embezzlement typically involves an individual who engages in a scheme to obtain money unlawfully, often from their employer. As this offense usually involves large sums of money, the penalties for an embezzlement conviction may be harsh. Enlisting the help of an Atlanta embezzlement lawyer may allow you to fight your criminal charge more effectively.
You may need the advocacy of an experienced criminal defense lawyer throughout all stages of your criminal proceedings, from the initial arraignment to the final resolution of your case. You can work with legal counsel to explore your options and settle upon the defense tactics most likely to be successful.
Some state laws have a separate offense to specifically address embezzlement. Under Georgia law, embezzlement instead qualifies as a type of theft by conversion and is defined in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 16-8-4. As a result, embezzlement charges and penalties under state law are identical to those for theft by conversion.
Various elements must exist for embezzlement or theft by conversion to occur:
One example of embezzlement that this code section refers to involves actions by officers or employees of a government or financial institution. If those individuals fail to pay on an account as legally demanded from the property or funds that they hold from others, the law presumes that the individuals intended to convert the funds or property for their own use. Consulting a white-collar crime lawyer in the area may be beneficial when facing theft by conversion charges.
Embezzlement covers a wide variety of scenarios. For instance, a person working as a cashier in a retail store may commit embezzlement if they unlawfully remove cash from the cash register, fail to ring up purchases for the correct amount, or ring them up at all or engage in other actions to hide their theft. A bank employee may commit embezzlement if they pocket cash that customers give them or deposit money in personal or fictitious accounts instead of the accounts of the owners.
A government clerk who takes payments from the public, such as court filing fees or utility payments, may embezzle if they take some of the money for themselves instead of applying it to the correct accounts. An investment professional may embezzle funds when they use money that customers have invested to benefit themselves financially.
The level of the criminal charges and the resulting penalties depend primarily on the value of the embezzled funds or property. Generally, the embezzlement of funds or property worth $1,500 or less will result in misdemeanor charges, and the embezzlement of funds or property worth more than that will result in felony charges. Nonetheless, state law permits judges to sentence individuals convicted of theft of funds or property worth less than $25,000 to misdemeanor penalties in appropriate cases.
O.C.G.A. § 16-8-12 sets forth the sentencing ranges for theft by conversion based on the value of the property or funds, as follows:
As a local embezzlement attorney may advise, the prior criminal history of theft convictions also can enhance a misdemeanor theft by conversion charge from a misdemeanor to a felony charge in some cases. Additionally, a person who violates a fiduciary duty or takes property in their responsibilities at a financial institution can face a sentence of one to 15 years in prison and fines, regardless of the value of the funds or property involved.
Embezzlement may be widely known as a white-collar, non-violent criminal offense, but a conviction still can result in severe penalties. In addition to incarceration and fines, an individual accused of embezzlement may also lose their professional license or the right to work in their profession. Getting the advice of an Atlanta embezzlement lawyer could be crucial to a positive outcome in your case. Call today to schedule a consultation with a skilled legal professional and learn more about your options.