Proving Misappropriation of Funds
While this crime is punishable in all 50 states, the laws from state to state vary greatly. As a result, prosecutors may need to focus on different types of elements related to the crime depending on the case they are dealing with at that time. Yet in most cases, several key elements must be proven in order to gain a misappropriation of funds conviction. These include the property owner willingly giving the defendant control of but not ownership of the funds, the defendant having the intent to take the money and use it for their own purposes, the defendant actually using it for their own purposes, and that the defendant did at some point plan on returning the money. However, it is vital to remember that when it comes to the defendant using the money for their own purposes, this does not mean actual purchases had to be made. In fact, simply putting the money in a bank account is sufficient grounds to show the money was used for the defendant’s own purposes.
Embezzlement and Larceny
Under most state laws, misappropriation of funds is defined as any act that results in funds being used in a manner for which they were not originally intended. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the case, this can lead to a defendant being charged with either embezzlement or larceny. While embezzlement is a crime dealing with property taken from a defendant’s employer, larceny is taking something from another person that you have no right to possess. When these charges are brought forth by prosecutors, hiring a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who specializes in such cases should be a top priority.
When a defendant is charged with misappropriation of funds, it will most likely be a very serious charge that should not be taken for granted by them or their attorney. While it can be a misdemeanor in some states if the amount of money or property involved is small enough, most states will view this crime as a felony. As an example, public employees who steal taxpayer dollars will almost always be charged with a felony. As for punishments, defendants can expect anything from restitution, probation, fines, prison, or most often a combination of these. When it comes to prison time, a misdemeanor conviction could result in no more than one year in jail. However, felony convictions can lead to 10 years or even more in prison. Fines usually range from $1,000-$10,000 depending on the amount of money involved, and defendants are usually ordered by the court to pay restitution to their victims.
Statute of Limitations
Like many crimes dealing with finances, the statute of limitations for misappropriation of funds ranges from two to five years in most states. Also, the statute of limitations often starts from the time the defendant took possession of the funds in question, so this should always be kept in mind when determining if these charges can in fact be levied against a defendant by prosecutors.
Defenses to this Crime
While it may seem as if there would be no viable defenses to misappropriation of funds, that is not the case at all. One of the most common and effective is insufficient evidence, which can result in the charges being dismissed. In addition, absence of intent is also very effective in winning these cases. If it can be proven no intent existed, a financial crime cannot occur. Also, defendants may use such defenses as entrapment set up by law enforcement or that the defendant committed the crime while under duress. If presented properly by defense attorneys, it is often possible to beat these charges.