Florida Embezzlement Laws

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Embezzlement is a kind of property theft.  It occurs when a defendant, who was entrusted to manage or monitor someone else’s money or property, steals all or part of that money or property for the defendant’s personal gain. The key is that the defendant had legal access to another’s money or property, but not legal ownership of it.  Taking the money or property for the defendant’s own gain is stealing; when combined with the fact that this stealing was also a violation of a special position of trust, you have the unique crime of embezzlement.

Embezzlement can occur in a variety of circumstances. For example, a bank teller has legal access to client money, and is trusted to handle but not take that money. Officers and employees of companies can also embezzle funds belonging to the company, as can family members caring for a relative, professionals like lawyers or board members who handle client or investor money, or anyone in a position of trust with regard to someone else’s money or property.

For more information about embezzlement, see Embezzlement: Penalties and Sentences.

How is Embezzlement Punished in Florida?

In Florida, embezzlement is punished according to the value or type of property stolen. (Fl. Stat. Ann. § 812.014.)

Felony of the first degree

Defendants who embezzle property or money of the following types or amounts will be charged with a felony in the first degree: the property is valued at $100,000 or more; is cargo from a shipper’s loading platform valued at $50,000 or more; or is stolen because of and during a state of emergency declared by the Governor. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, up to 30 years in prison, or both.

Felony of the second degree

Defendants who embezzle property or money of the following types or amounts will be charged with a felony in the second degree: the property is valued at $20,000 or more, but less than $100,000; is cargo from a shipper’s loading platform valued at less than $50,000; is emergency medical equipment or law enforcement equipment valued at $300 or more; or is any property listed under “Felony of the third degree” (below), when stolen because of and during a state of emergency declared by the Governor. Defendants who coordinate with one or more other people for the purposes of embezzling money or property with a value of more than $3,000 will also be charged with a felony in the second degree. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, up to 15 years in prison, or both.

Felony of the third degree

Defendants who embezzle property or money of the following types or amounts will be charged with a felony in the third degree: the property is valued at $300 or more, but less than $20,000; a will or other testamentary instrument; a firearm of any value; a commercially-farmed animal; a fire extinguisher; any amount of citrus fruit consisting of 2,000 or more pieces; any stop sign, or any controlled substance (illegal drug). It is also a felony of the third degree to embezzle any property valued at $100 or more, but less than $300 from a dwelling or surrounding property. Defendants convicted of a third or subsequent misdemeanor embezzlement crime are also guilty of a felony in the third degree. Penalties include a fine of up to $5,000, up to five years in prison, or both.

Misdemeanor of the first degree

A defendant who embezzles money or property valued at $100 or more (but less than $300) is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree (except when embezzled from a dwelling or surrounding property, as described in “Felony of the third degree”, above). A defendant with one or two prior misdemeanor theft convictions will also be punished according to the penalties applicable to a misdemeanor of the first degree (even if the current conviction would otherwise be a misdemeanor of the second degree). Penalties include a fine of up to $1,000, up to one year in jail, or both.

Misdemeanor of the second degree             

Embezzlement of property not specified in the sections above is considered a misdemeanor of the second degree. Penalties include a fine of up to $500, up to 60 days in jail, or both.

An Important Note on Local Legal Representation

If you have been charged with a property theft or embezzlement-related offense, consult an experienced criminal defense attorney. While the penalties and consequences of property theft charges are governed by statutory law, only a local criminal defense attorney can tell you how strong the case against you appears to be, and how cases like yours tend to be handled by prosecutors and judges in your courthouse. An experienced lawyer can also advise you as to possible alternatives to criminal punishment, such as paying back the money involved, along with court fees and other costs, or some other alternative that your judge might consider.

by: , Contributing Author

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