Embezzlement Defense Attorney in Jacksonville, FL

Embezzlement can be a serious crime in the State of Florida as it typically involves an abuse of trust. After all Embezzlement is often described as involving the theft of money or property from someone who has entrusted that property to you. However, while embezzlement is a serious offense in the State of Florida, any act of embezzlement within this state will actually be charged under the general umbrella of theft as is defined in Florida Statute 812.014. Some examples of embezzlement might include: 

  • A bank teller transferring small sums of money from customer accounts to their own account over time or failing to record cash deposits and pocketing the money
  • A trustee converting property intended for the benefit of the trust beneficiaries for their own purposes
  • An employee creating a fraudulent vendor account to pay company funds to themselves or a third party not entitled to those payments
  • An employee steals company property, such as raw materials or retail items, or assists a third party in the theft of company property

In fact, even stealing office supplies from your employer can constitute embezzlement.

In many states, embezzlement is a separate and often more serious crime than other types of theft, because the thief is exploiting a trust-based relationship and breaching a duty to the victim. In Florida, however, there is no specific embezzlement statute. Instead, embezzlement crimes are charged as theft.

Under Florida law, a person is guilty of theft when they knowingly obtain or use the property of another with the intent to: 

(a) Deprive the other person of a right to the property or a benefit from the property.

(b) Appropriate the property to his or her own use or to the use of any person not entitled to the use of the property.

The deprivation of the right to or benefit from the property need not be permanent.

How Serious are Embezzlement Charges? 

The classification of the crime and the possible penalties in an embezzlement case—as in any other theft case—depend in large part on the value of the property misappropriated. In certain circumstances, there may be other factors as well. 

Generally, the embezzlement or other theft of property is charged as:

  • Petit theft in the second degree (a misdemeanor of the second degree) if the property is valued at less than $100. 
  • Petit theft in the first degree (a misdemeanor of the first degree) if the property is valued at $100 or more, but less than $750.
  • Grand theft in the third degree (a felony of the third degree) if the property is valued at $750 or more, but less than $20,000. 
  • Grand theft in the second degree (a felony of the second degree) if the property is valued at $20,000 or more, but less than $100,000. 
  • Grand theft in the first degree (a felony of the first degree) if the property is valued at $100,000 or more.

Now while the potential penalties for theft or embezzlement in Florida will be identical, the inherent nature of embezzlement, which involves a violation of trust, raises the possibility that the real world consequences for embezzlement may be more severe than a standard theft case. 

Other Factors Impacting Possible Penalties for Embezzlement

While the value-based breakdown above applies to most embezzlement and other theft cases in Florida, there are a wide variety of very specific factors that can impact the seriousness of the charges and the possible penalties. 

Victim Characteristics Can Impact Theft Charges

For example, when the victim of the crime is aged 65 or older, the theft offenses are classified differently. A person accused of embezzling or otherwise stealing from an elderly person can be prosecuted for a felony if the property is valued as low at $300. The crime becomes a felony of the second degree at $10,000 rather than $20,000, and a felony of the first degree at $50,000 instead of $100,000. So, for example, a trustee charged with managing assets for the benefit of an elderly relative who steals from the trust could face more serious charges and a longer prison sentence than someone who stole the same amount from a younger person.

The Nature of the Items Stolen Can Impact Theft Charges

Theft of certain types of items are classified independent of the value of the item. These items aren’t always intuitive. For example, it is always a felony to steal someone’s will, though the will itself has no direct monetary value. It is also a felony to steal a farm animal, regardless of value. Or a firearm, a stop sign, or 2,000 or more individual pieces of fruit. 

That means, for example, that a person stealing a live chicken worth $25 from the farm where they work could be charged with a felony of the third degree, risking up to five years in prison. But, someone stealing a car stereo worth $450 from the retail store where they work would—if there were no other special factors—be charged with a misdemeanor and face no more than one year in jail.

As you can see, there are many variables that may impact how serious embezzlement charges are and how serious the possible consequences may be. The best way to get more specific information about the particular charges you are facing is to talk to an experienced Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer.

Consult a Local Embezzlement Attorney Right Away

Criminal cases can move quickly, and it’s easy to make serious mistakes if you’re unfamiliar with the criminal justice system. Attorney Matthew Lufrano with Lufrano Legal, P.A. has dedicated his career to fighting for people who have been charged with crimes in Florida. To schedule your free consultation, call 904-513-3905 or fill out the contact form on this site. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Florida Embezzlement Law

What is the difference between embezzlement and theft?

Embezzlement is a specific type of theft in which the victim of the crime has entrusted the stolen property to the thief. In Florida, embezzlement is charged as theft—the state has no separate criminal statute for embezzlement. Another way to think about it is all embezzlement is theft but not all theft is embezzlement.

Is it embezzlement if you give the money back?

It is critical to understand that in Florida the returning of stolen property does not negate or eliminate the crime of theft or embezzlement. Such a crime is committed when a person takes possession or control of someone else’s property with the intent to use it for their own purposes and deprive the owner of its use or benefit. Therefore because the crime has been fully committed when the property is taken, it is not undone by return of the property. However, returning the property may persuade the victim not to notify law enforcement. Similarly, even if charges are filed, having voluntarily returned the stolen property may favorably impact the plea deal the prosecution offers, resulting in a less severe sentence. That said, you should always confer with an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney before you chose to take any such action.

What kind of property can be embezzled?

Though most people think of embezzlement in terms of siphoning cash from an employer, the crime actually takes many forms. Theft of any type of property by someone who has been entrusted with that property for someone else’s benefit may be the basis of an embezzlement charge.

What are the possible consequences of an embezzlement conviction?

In addition to jail or prison time and fines (determined by the value of the property and other factors described above), a person convicted of embezzlement will likely be ordered to make restitution to the victim. In addition, as a crime of dishonesty, embezzlement may impact future employment options, housing opportunities, and other areas of life.

How do I find the right embezzlement lawyer?

One of the most important factors in choosing your embezzlement lawyer is experience with theft crimes cases in Florida. You should also seek out an attorney who is willing and able to fight for you at trial if that turns out to be the best approach in your case.