In general, crimes that are considered “white collar” are usually nonviolent offenses that someone commits for financial gain, and typically in the course of their white collar occupation, such as a lawyer, doctor, accountant, business owner, banker, or government employee. A common white collar crime in Florida is embezzlement, which is usually considered a type of property theft. You can be convicted of embezzlement if while entrusted to monitor or manage the property or money of another, you steal all or a part of that property or money for your own personal gain. The key or main element of embezzlement is that you had legal access to that property or money, but you did not have legal ownership of the property or money. Though taking someone else’s property or money for your own personal benefit is generally considered stealing, what makes the offense embezzlement is that you stole the property or money while you were in a special position of trust.
Embezzlement can occur in different situations, but it usually happens when someone is entrusted to handle the property or money of another, such as:
- Managers of a business or employees who actually have access to money belonging to the business who steal the money for their own benefit;
- A niece who is taking care of her elderly or sickly aunt, and who has access to her aunt’s money for caretaking purposes, but steals that money for herself;
- A lawyer who uses a client’s trust funds for their own personal benefit; or
- A bank teller who has access to a customer’s money and steals the customer’s money to use for their own personal benefit.
It is important to note that Florida does not actually have a specific embezzlement law, but the offense is typically prosecuted under the law that prohibits property theft even though general property theft or grand theft in Florida usually involves the taking or stealing of someone else’s property to which you had no rights — remember that in the case of embezzlement, you actually do have legal access to the property or money.
The punishment associated with an embezzlement conviction typically depends on the value or type of property that is stolen:
- Embezzlement is considered a second-degree misdemeanor if the value or amount of property stolen is not more than $100. In this case, a conviction can result in up to sixty days’ imprisonment and a fine of not more than $500.
- Embezzlement is considered a first-degree misdemeanor if the value or amount stolen is greater than $100 but not more than $300. In this case, a conviction can result in up to a year in prison and fines reaching $1,000.
- The offense is considered a third-degree felony if the value or amount stolen is greater than $300 but not more than 20,000. In this case, you can face up to five years’ imprisonment and fines as large as $5,000.
- The offense is considered a second-degree felony if the amount stolen is more than $20,000 but less than $100,000. In this instance, you can face jail time of up to fifteen years, and fines as large as $10,000.
- The offense is a first-degree felony if the amount stolen is more than $100,000. In this instance, you can face up to thirty years in prison and fines as large as $10,000.
It also should be noted that in Florida, depending on the facts and circumstances of your case, an embezzlement conviction can also mean a suspension of your driver’s license for up to one year.
If you or a loved one have been charged with embezzlement in Florida, it is imperative that you speak to an experienced Florida Embezzlement Attorney