Fort Worth Criminal Defense Attorneys Defending Accusations of Embezzlement
When most people think of the term embezzlement, they think of high-profile cases involving large companies or well-known charities. However, embezzlement can also happen to small businesses, and the consequences that come with this charge are hefty.
The state of Texas classifies embezzlement as a crime of theft but handles it differently than other crimes in the same classification. Unlike larceny offenses where the alleged thief does not have any legal right to access the money, embezzlement involves individuals who do. While these individuals do not have legal ownership of the money or property they use, because they are legally allowed and have a legal obligation to handle them, these cases can be tricky to prosecute and defend.
Have You Been Charged With Embezzlement in the State of Texas?
If you’ve been charged with embezzlement in Texas, you’ll want to partner with an experienced criminal defense attorney. The team at Gebhardt & Eppes, PLLC has been serving Fort Worth, Texas, and the surrounding area by defending its citizens when they are charged with embezzlement or similar white collar crimes, such as fraud. We fully believe that all individuals, no matter the circumstances surrounding the case, are innocent until proven guilty. We fight hard to ensure that our client’s voice is heard and they are treated fairly and with respect in a court of law. Here is more information on our embezzlement defense services.
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What Is Embezzlement?
Embezzlement is the act of unlawfully taking control of money or property that one has legal access to based on their position of trust. The individual then uses it to their own benefit.
For example, someone who works at a charity has access to charity funds. Instead of sending all the funds to the charity’s account, they divert some of them into an account only they can access. They then use these funds on personal items, such as going to fancy restaurants or buying the latest designer clothes. Under current Texas state laws, this behavior is considered theft and can result in jail time and hefty fines.
What Are the Current Texas Embezzlement Laws?
Texas Penal Code Section 31.02 places embezzlement under the same classification as other crimes of theft. Because of this, there is no definite statute dedicated to the crime of embezzlement.
Instead, the classification of embezzlement and its possible penalties depend on the amount of money involved in the case. The Texas Penal Code Section 31.03(e) establishes the following classifications and punishments for this crime. Here is a breakdown of the charge and punishments for embezzlement:
- Class C Misdemeanor: The embezzled property is less than $100 in value. This is punishable by a fine of up to $500.
- Class B Misdemeanor: The value of the embezzled property is greater than $100 but less than $750, or the value is less than $100 but the accused has previously been convicted of embezzlement or theft. The crime is also a Class B misdemeanor if the embezzled property is a driver’s license, a commercial driver’s license, or a personal identification certificate issued by Texas or another state. This is punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
- Class A Misdemeanor: The embezzled property’s value is more than $750 but less than $2,500. This is punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000.
- State Jail Felony: Embezzlement is considered a state jail felony if the following is true:
- The value of the property is over $2,500 but less than $30,000.
- The property is less than 10 head of sheep, swine, or goats or any part thereof under the value of $30,000.
- The property is from another person or a human corpse or grave, including property that is a military grave marker.
- The property embezzled is a firearm.
- The property is an official ballot or official carrier envelope for an election.
- The value of the property is less than $2,500 but the individual being convicted has two or more convictions of any grade of theft.
- This degree of embezzlement is punishable by a jail sentence of up to two years and a fine of up to $10,000.
- Felony of the Third-Degree: Embezzlement will be considered a third-degree felony when the following is true:
- The value of the property is more than $30,000 but less than $150,000.
- The property is cattle, horses, or exotic livestock or fowl embezzled in a single transaction and whose value is less than $150,000.
- The embezzled property was more than 10 head of sheep, swine, or goats during a single transaction and had a value of less than $10,000.
- Embezzlement of this degree is punishable by up to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
- Felony of the Second-Degree: Embezzlement will be considered a second-degree felony if the following is true:
- The value of the embezzled property is more than $150,000 but less than $300,000.
- The value of the embezzled property is less than $300,00 but the property is an automated teller machine or the contents or components of an automated teller machine.
- Embezzlement of this degree is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
- Felony of the First-Degree: Embezzlement is considered a felony in the first-degree if the property embezzled was worth $300,000 or more.
- This is punishable by up to 99 years or life in prison along with a fine of up to $10,000
Cases of Embezzlement Involving Aggravating Factors
In some cases, an accused embezzler may face an increased sentence if any of the following is true:
- The alleged offender was a public servant at the time of the offense. The property that was embezzled came into the accused’s custody, possession, or control by the alleged offender’s status as a public servant.
- The accused was in a contractual relationship with the government at the time of the crime and the property came into their possession or custody because of the virtue of the contractual relationship.
- The owner of the embezzled property was, at the time of the offense, an elderly individual or a nonprofit organization.
- The alleged offender was a Medicare provider in a contractual relationship with the federal government at the time of the offense and the property was placed in the alleged offender’s control through the contractual relationship.
- During the crime, the alleged offender intentionally or recklessly used an alarm sound, such as a fire alarm or retail theft detector, to prevent detection during the act of embezzlement.
If any of the aggravating factors are found to be true, the punishment can be increased to the next highest degree. For example, a state jail felony could be upgraded to a third-degree felony.
What Are the Possible Defenses Against Embezzlement?
Embezzlement is a serious charge that can lead to more than just jail time and a hefty fine. A conviction for embezzlement can also lead to the loss of one’s professional license, freedom, and ability to get and hold a job. Defenses for embezzlement may include:
- The defendant was mistaken for someone else.
- Lack of intent.
- The defendant had rightful ownership of the money or property.
If you have been charged with Embezzlement in the State of Texas, you will want an experienced criminal defense attorney, such as the team at Gebhardt & Eppes.
What Is the Statute of Limitation on Embezzlement in Texas?
For misdemeanor embezzlement, the state must file charges within two years from the date when the crime allegedly took place. However, if the value of the property qualifies the crime as a felony charge, then the Texas statute of limitations increases to five years from the alleged crime. It can go up to as many as ten years, depending on the value of the money or property that was supposedly embezzled. This ten-year period also applies if the accused is a public servant and they embezzled government property.
For financial institutions, the state has a period of seven years to bring a case forward against the accused.
Our Experienced Fort Worth Embezzlement Defense Lawyers Can Help
If you have been charged with embezzlement in the State of Texas, you cannot wait to act. You need a defense attorney on your side to ensure that your rights are protected and that your side of the story and voice can be heard. We do not let the prosecution bully you and we act as your personal advocates. Contact our Fort Worth Embezzlement Attorneys if you’re facing embezzlement charges in the state of Texas. Schedule a complimentary consultation and let us help.
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1. The defendant was mistaken for someone else.
2. Lack of intent
3. The defendant had rightful ownership of the money or property
The defendant’s actions must have been intentional and not the result of an error. The defendant must have taken ownership of the property (at least temporarily), transferred the property to someone else, destroyed the property, or hidden it.