Common Defenses in Florida Embezzlement Cases
A conviction in Florida for embezzlement can lead to life-altering consequences. If convicted, you could face prison time as well as a substantial fine. These consequences don’t disappear when a jail sentence is complete, either. If you are convicted of a felony, you will face hardships regarding your employment and housing for the rest of your life. But with the right Florida defense attorney by your side, a conviction is far from guaranteed.
Viable Defenses to a Florida Embezzlement Charge
Every Florida embezzlement case is different, and no two cases will have the same viable defenses. Your attorney will review the facts of your case and determine the best defense for your situation.
At the culmination of your trial, it is up to the state of Florida to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of embezzlement. But the prosecutor doesn’t always meet that burden. If the prosecution lacks the evidence to convince a jury that you committed the crime, it is likely they will drop the charges before your case goes to trial.
Another straight-forward defense is to prove that the transaction in question was legitimate and that you had an authorized business purpose for doing so. You will be required to prove that you had a valid business reason for making the transaction in question, and did not act for personal gain. Consider the following example:
You work for a restaurant. You have been granted authority to buy additional cooking supplies as needed by the owner and reimburse yourself afterwards. One day, you notice that the restaurant is short on mustard. You purchase mustard on behalf of the restaurant and then write yourself a check for the cost of the condiments. This is a valid business use of the money that was previously authorized by the owner, and you did not act for personal gain. You would have a valid defense to a charge of embezzlement.
The Constitution of the United States endows you with certain rights and protections, including the protection against unlawful searches and seizures. If the government pulls over your car without probable cause or searches your office without a warrant, your attorney may be able to have any evidence discovered thrown out. Consider the following example:
The police suspect you of embezzling from your company. They receive a tip that you have documentation that proves you are guilty locked in a drawer in your home. Without obtaining a search warrant, a police officer kicks in your door, breaks into your drawer and seizes the document. Your attorney would likely be able to have the documentation seized from your home excluded from your trial.
Lack of Intent
Like with many crimes, the prosecutor must prove that you acted with the intent to defraud someone to obtain a conviction for embezzlement. This is important because you have a valid defense if you lacked the intent to embezzle. This could include an accident or misunderstanding, like taking the money you believed was yours. It could also be the result of a clerical error, like accidentally depositing the money in the wrong bank account. Consider the following example:
You work at a restaurant. At the end of your shift, you are told by your manager that you are receiving a holiday cash bonus. Your manager tells you the bonus is behind the bar and that you can pick it up on your way out. As you leave, you pick up a wad of cash sitting on the counter.
Unbeknownst to you, your bonus was in a small envelope next to the cash register and what you picked up was the bank deposit for the evening. Even though you took money from your place of business that did not belong to you, you lacked the intent to commit a crime.
A variation of the lack of intent defense is the claim of duress. In rare circumstances, it is possible to successfully claim that you only committed the crime because you were forced to. If another person threatens you or a loved one with some sort of harm, you may feel as if you have no choice but to commit a crime you otherwise wouldn’t. Consider the following example:
You are an accountant at a large company. One day at work, you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be holding your spouse hostage. He will only release your spouse if you wire money from the company to his account. If you are charged with a crime, you could raise the defense of duress in this situation.
A defense that is infrequently used but can apply in rare embezzlement cases is entrapment. Entrapment is when a government entity compels or coerces a person to commit a crime that they otherwise would never have committed. While law enforcement is allowed to use “sting” operations to make arrests, an entrapment defense may be viable if a government actor puts any undue pressure on a person to commit a crime. This can be an exceptionally difficult defense to prove, as the prosecutor in your case will likely argue you intended to embezzle regardless of the actions of the government.
Consult an Attorney About Florida Embezzlement Charges Today
These are only a few of the potential embezzlement defenses available. Whether or not a certain defense will be viable in your case depends entirely on the facts. Your attorney will review the facts of the case and get your side of the story to determine the best legal defense strategy for you.
The consequences of a conviction for embezzlement are serious. Not only can a conviction lead to a large fine or incarceration, but it can also affect your ability to make a living for years to come. If you are ready to fight the charges against you, contact Florida embezzlement attorney Omar Abdelghany. Omar is an experienced criminal defense attorney that has represented a number of clients accused of white-collar crime. To discuss your case, contact the OA Law Firm for your free consultation today.