Embezzlement is a crime that occurs when a person who is entrusted with money or property misuses that money or property in order to benefit themselves. For example, imagine that a building contractor hires an accountant to manage funds for a new project. Every time a deposit comes in, the accountant diverts some of the money into his personal account and then alters the records to hide the evidence. That is embezzlement. In Texas, embezzlement is taken very seriously. The punishments for this crime can be strict and swift.
Texas Penalties for Embezzlement
Punishments for an embezzlement conviction can vary based on the amount of money or property that was misused in a case. The penalties increase as the amount of money or property increases in value. Some typical punishments are:
- $500 fine for embezzlement of $50 or less
- Up to two years in prison for embezzlement of more than $1500
- Up to 99 years in prison for embezzlement of more than $200,000
That’s not all. The sentence can be taken to the next level if the crime involved certain other elements.
Not all embezzlement schemes take place in corporate settings. Sometimes especially vulnerable victims are involved. An embezzlement sentence can be enhanced if:
- The defendant worked for the government
- The victim was over the age of 65
- The victim was a not-for-profit company
If any of these circumstances apply, the penalty can be automatically increased to the next highest penalty level.
Defending against Embezzlement Charges
The state prosecution has the burden of proving that the defendant misused money or property. That’s a tough burden of proof. Just consider what the state has to prove:
- That the defendant was solely entrusted with the stolen money or property
- That the defendant intentionally misused the money or property
- That the missing money wasn’t the result of an error or accident
Mistakes happen all the time in accounting. It’s difficult to prove that a respectable employee just decided to become a criminal and begin stealing money. An experienced lawyer can explain to the jury how difficult it is to link someone to a particular crime. The law states that the jury must be beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict someone. Getting twelve strangers to agree based on limited evidence is difficult for the prosecution to accomplish.
Texas is tough on embezzlement but Texas lawyers fight hard. Schedule an initial consultation with an experienced attorney to prepare a solid legal defense against embezzlement charges.