The crime of embezzlement might seem like a victimless crime to some; but embezzlement charges have the potential to seriously affect your freedom, your reputation, and your professional license if you have one. Even the simple accusation of a crime of dishonesty such as embezzlement can have permanent effects on your life, your relationships, and your profession of choice. If you are someone who holds a professional license from your state to practice or work in your profession, then your license can be at stake if you are charged with embezzlement. If you are facing an embezzlement charge, then it is critical that you speak to an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
What is Embezzlement?
Generally, embezzlement is an act of theft. What makes embezzlement different from other types of theft is that embezzlement occurs when someone has the authority to access or use money or property from a person, business, or other entity, but instead of using the money or property as they are supposed to, they decide to take the money or property for themselves. Embezzlement can also occur when someone is using the money or property of another improperly to gain a benefit. Embezzlement involves not only theft or improper benefit but also a violation of trust. An embezzlement conviction can follow you far past the conviction itself in several ways.
Embezzlement charges are often very technical and can be almost entirely based on business records, emails, and other forms of communication. Some of the most important factors in an embezzlement case are the value of what was alleged to have been embezzled, the type of authority the defendant had over the money or property embezzled, and how the defendant completed the crime. Embezzlement can occur where you work, volunteer, or even from your own business. Embezzlement charges can result in jail or prison time, the loss of your professional license, and often include large restitution requirements.
What Are Some Examples of Embezzlement?
There is a litany of situations where someone can end up facing an embezzlement charge. The main element that makes an embezzlement charge unique is authority. The person accused of embezzlement must have had some sort of authority given to him or her to have access to the money or property in question. Some of the most common examples of embezzlement include:
- Example 1: Stealing from an employer – the common example here is a grocery store cashier that pockets the money from the cash register. For those who are professionals, this can be a doctor stealing medical supplies from the hospital they work at, or a pharmacist stealing medication or money from the pharmacy they work at.
- Example 2: Stealing from your own company – If you have your own company, then you likely have that company organized into its own legal entity. If you have partners or other part-owners of your company, then you will likely need permissions to take and use company funds. If company funds are used or taken without the appropriate permissions, then you can face embezzlement charges.
- Example 3: Stealing from a nonprofit you serve on – If you serve on a nonprofit board, or volunteer in some capacity and are given authority over the nonprofit's money or property, then any illegal use or taking of that money or property can result in an embezzlement charge.
Any one of the above examples can lay the foundation for a basic embezzlement charge. Embezzlement laws and punishments vary state by state, so it is important to know the law specific to the state you are in. Embezzlement charges can often have multiple components to them including criminal prosecution, civil litigation, and professional license disciplinary actions. It is important you have a comprehensive plan to defend yourself in all of these phases.
What Are the Embezzlement Laws in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, the crime of embezzlement is intertwined within the state statutes regulating theft and does not stand on its own. The crime of embezzlement can be found within the following section of the Pennsylvania statutes:
In Pennsylvania, criminal charges are broken into different categories depending on the severity of the crime charged. Both felony and misdemeanor offenses are broken into three different degrees of severity, respectively, from first-degree to third-degree offenses. Embezzlement can be charged as follows in Pennsylvania:
- First-degree felony: when $500,000 or more is alleged to have been embezzled, this can result in 10-20 years in prison and fines up to $25,000.
- Second-degree felony: when $100,000-$499,999 is alleged to have been embezzled, this can result in 5-10 years in prison, and fines up to $25,000.
- Third-degree felony: when $2,000-$99,999 is alleged to have been embezzled, this can result in 3.5-7 years in prison and fines of up to $15,000.
Misdemeanor embezzlement offenses in Pennsylvania can also result in significant incarceration, fines, and restitution. A first-degree misdemeanor charge can result in up to 5 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine under Pennsylvania law.
What Are the Embezzlement Laws in New Jersey?
New Jersey does not have a named “embezzlement” statute, so crimes of embezzlement are typically charged under a type of theft charge. In New Jersey, the crime of embezzlement can be found within the following section of the New Jersey Revised Statutes:
- Theft by failure to make required disposition of property received: 2C:20-9
In New Jersey, criminal charges are broken into different categories that are based on the severity of the crime charged. Felony offenses are broken into four different degrees of crimes, while misdemeanors are charged as “disorderly persons” offenses. Embezzlement charges in New Jersey can be charged as follows:
- Second-degree offense: when $75,000 or more is alleged to have been embezzled, this can result in 5-10 years in prison, fines up to $150,000, and comes with a presumption of incarceration.
- Third-degree offense: when $500-$74,999 is alleged to have been embezzled, this can result in 3-5 years in prison and fines up to $15,000.
- Fourth-degree offense: when $200-$499 is alleged to have been embezzled, this can result in up to 18 months in prison and fines as high as $10,000.
- Disorderly persons offense: when less than $200 is alleged to have been embezzled, this can result in up to 6 months in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.
A conviction for any one of these offenses can result in the loss of your professional license.
What Are the Embezzlement Laws in New York?
In New York, embezzlement is included within the state statute against larceny. The crime of embezzlement can be found within the New York Penal Laws starting at:
- NYPL Article 155
The New York Penal Laws break the crime of embezzlement into different degrees under the larceny statute as follows:
- First-degree larceny: when more than $1,000,000 is alleged to have been embezzled, this can result in up to 25 years in prison.
- Second-degree larceny: when $50,000-$999,999 is alleged to have been embezzled, this can result in up to 15 years in prison.
- Third-degree larceny: when $3,000-$49,999 is alleged to have been embezzled, this can result in up to 7 years in prison.
- Fourth-degree larceny: when more than $1,000 but less than $3,000 is alleged to have been embezzled, this can result in up to 4 years in prison.
Since there is not a direct embezzlement statute, there are other types of charges that might also be included in an embezzlement case. An individual can also be charged with possessing stolen property, forgery, or falsifying a business record, among other crimes, if facing an allegation of embezzlement.
Collateral Consequences of an Embezzlement Conviction
If you are a professional who holds a state license to work in your profession, then the consequences of an embezzlement conviction can be critical. State licensing boards expect their licensees to be honest and of good moral character. A conviction for a crime of dishonesty and broken trust such as embezzlement can result in the loss of most any professional license.
An embezzlement conviction can also result in serious difficulty getting a job, housing, and the ability to do business with others. You can lose your gun rights, right to vote, and the ability to join a branch of the United States Military. If you are not a United States citizen, then an embezzlement conviction can have immigration consequences and can even result in deportation.
How Can an Embezzlement Conviction Hurt Your Professional License?
If you hold a professional license of any kind, then you are expected to follow certain rules and guidelines, or else your license can be suspended or taken away. Most professional organizations that license and monitor licensees have a written set of rules and regulations that it expects licensees to follow. One major requirement of licensure for a professional license is moral character. A crime of dishonesty such as embezzlement can not only result in the loss of your license; it can also result in you never being licensed again. If you have never been licensed before, then an embezzlement conviction will likely be a massive hurdle in being granted a license in the first place.
The Importance of Proper Professional License Defense
If you hold a professional license awarded to you by the state, then you likely realize its importance in your ability to earn a living and work in your profession. Any claim of embezzlement or other forms of misconduct, even if untrue, can have a serious impact on your professional license. Whatever the motivation, an accusation can start the process of an investigation that can affect your professional license, reputation, and your ability to earn a living. A claim of embezzlement can lead to significant damages if the alleged victim is claiming they suffered considerable financial losses. If you are facing an embezzlement accusation that could affect your professional license, then it is essential to speak to an attorney experienced in criminal defense as well as professional license defense as soon as possible.
How an Attorney Can Help You if You Are a Professional Who Is Facing an Embezzlement Charge
If you are a professional who is facing an embezzlement charge, then it is important to a multi-faceted plan of attack for your defense. An attorney can help you investigate your case, negotiate on your behalf, and represent you in any matter or proceeding with your state licensing board. Licensing boards operate through a set of administrative rules that outline the boards' powers and how to conduct license proceedings dealing with their licensees. It is important that you understand that those on the licensing board are not your friends and are not there to cut you any breaks. Licensing boards exist to protect the public and promote the wellbeing of citizens by only awarding licenses to those they deem appropriate and fit to practice. It is your responsibility to demonstrate to your licensing board that you are deserving of a professional license. Having the right attorney can be the difference between you having your license, or being left without a way to earn your expected living.
Contact the Lento Law Firm Today
If you are a state-licensed professional who is facing a criminal charge related to an alleged act of embezzlement, then it is important to speak to a lawyer experienced in both criminal defense and professional license defense. Understanding how the criminal court system and your state licensing board interact is critical to deciding on your best legal approach. The attorneys at the Lento Law Firm have the necessary knowledge and experience that you need to help you find success in defending both your criminal charge and your professional license. To learn why attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm is the right choice to help you fight for your freedom and your professional license, call us at 888-535-3686 or contact us online.