What Is Embezzlement?

Embezzlement is considered to be a white collar crime since it doesn’t involve violence or other elements that we typically associate with crime. Regardless, it is still a crime with serious consequences. As a result, if you’ve been charged with embezzlement, you need a criminal defense attorney who can give you the help you need.

Knoxville criminal defense attorney John Barnes at The Barnes Law Firm represents defendants charged with embezzlement and other crimes. Call us at 865-234-1717 or send us an emailin order to schedule a free consultation with him about your case.

Embezzlement Defined

Embezzlement is a type of property theft and occurs when someone in a position of trust takes property belonging to someone else for their own benefit. To put it another way, the person who committed the theft had legal access to the property but did not own it. Here are some common examples of situations where embezzlement occurs:

  • A cashier takes money from the cash register to buy new clothes
  • The treasurer on a Board of Directors for a non-profit organization withdraws money from the organization’s operating account to pay for a vacation
  • The office manager for a doctor’s office routinely takes money from the petty cash account to buy lunch
  • A corporation’s CFO creates false invoices for various services and directs payment to accounts under his sole control for several years

Embezzlement can encompass a wide variety of thefts by different people and can involve simple one-time thefts of some small amount of money to sophisticated schemes and hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It’s also important to remember that embezzlement can include things other than money – you can be charged with embezzlement for theft of any type of property.

Potential Penalties of Embezzlement Convictions

Embezzlement is a very serious crime under Tennessee law. You may be facing heavy fines, time in prison, or both. The value of the property alleged to be stolen will determine whether it is charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, and will also determine the severity of the potential penalties.

Value of Property ChargeFinesPrison Sentence
$1,000 or lessClass A MisdemeanorUp to $2,500Up to 11 months, 29 days in jail
$1,000 to $2,500Class E FelonyUp to $3,0001-6 years in prison
$2,500 to $10,000Class D FelonyUp to $5,0002-12 years in prison
$10,000 to $60,000Class C FelonyUp to $10,0003-15 years in prison
$60,000 to $250,000Class B FelonyUp to $25,0008-30 years in prison
$250,000 or moreClass A FelonyUp to $50,00015-60 years in prison

As you can see, the crime becomes more serious and the penalties more severe as the amount stolen increases. However, even a misdemeanor embezzlement charge can result in jail time.

That said, it’s important to emphasize that the consequences of an embezzlement conviction can go beyond prison and fines. Criminal convictions are public record, and felony convictions can harm your reputation in the community. If you hold a professional license, such as attorneys or accountants, you may lose your license if convicted of embezzlement. The conviction can subsequently result in a loss of employment and make it difficult to get another job.

Defending Against Embezzlement Charges

In order to be convicted of embezzlement, the prosecution has to prove that you intended to steal property that you had access to as a result of being placed in a position of trust. People can be falsely accused of embezzlement as a result of a misunderstanding or in retaliation or other vindictive purpose.

First, note that you have to have been placed in a position of trust over the embezzled property. For example, you probably can’t charge a janitor with embezzling funds from the petty cash account if he was never given access to the account. While the janitor can still be charged with larceny, the point is that he could not be convicted of embezzlement.

Generally speaking, most defenses to embezzlement involve showing that you didn’t have the required intent or believed in good faith that you were acting within your authority. Here are some of the ways we can help you establish a defense against embezzlement charges:

  • You were given authority and permission to take the money or property for a legitimate business purpose rather than for your own gain.
  • You did not embezzle the property – it was lost or put somewhere else.
  • You did not intend to steal the property – you believed that you were acting within your authority.
  • Someone else with access to the same property could have stolen it.

The prosecution has to prove that embezzlement occurred and it was committed by you. Given the complexities of modern businesses, embezzlement charges are an easy accusation to make that are often difficult to prove.

It’s important to remember that acquittal or dismissal of the charges isn’t always possible, and in those cases, a plea bargain may become attractive. A plea bargain may allow you to avoid jail time, fines, or plea to a lesser charge. That said, plea bargains offered by the prosecution can often be skewed in their favor. If you are considering a plea bargain, it’s critical that you work with a criminal defense attorney to make sure the terms of the offer are fair.

Contact a Knoxville Tennessee Embezzlement Lawyer for Help

Embezzlement charges are serious and can change your life forever. In addition to jail time and fines, a conviction will be on your permanent record and result in irreparable damage to your reputation, your career, and your ability to find a job. However, just because you’ve been charged doesn’t mean you’ll be convicted. A skilled criminal defense attorney can defend you against these charges and help you get a fair result.

If you’re facing embezzlement charges and don’t know where to turn, contact attorney John Barnes at Barnes Law. Mr. Barnes can evaluate your case and help you understand your options. If you would like a free consultation and case evaluation, give us a call at 865-234-1717 or contact us online.