Different degrees of criminality have different levels of sentencing. For example, misdemeanors tend to carry much less severe penalties than felonies. In fact, the most serious type of misdemeanor, a Class A misdemeanor, has a maximum penalty of just one year in jail. When it comes to embezzlement charges, the majority of crimes are felonies. As soon as you’ve embezzled more than a thousand dollars, you’re in felony territory.
Different states have slightly different guidelines, and the federal government has their own rules. In most states, the nature of each crime doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter whether the crime is a theft or a violent offense. Each crime is given a classification of felony, and the majority of felonies come with the same base sentencing range.
For example, in the state of New York, all violent and non-violent Class C and Class D felonies go through the same process. They have the same general sentencing guidelines. But the individual judge in each case is allowed to use discretion regarding the severity of the sentence.
Factors of Sentencing
There are a number of factors that affect the sentence that a person will receive if they are convicted of an embezzlement charge. These are some of the most common:
- Whether the total amount of money stolen exceeds one thousand, three thousand, fifty thousand, or one million dollars
- Whether the person has committed this crime or any other theft crimes before
- Whether the person has been convicted of any felonies before
- Who the money was stolen from
- Why the money was stolen
- What the money was used for
- The long-term impacts upon the victim or victims
The class of felony is determined based on the total dollar amount of the theft. From there, the sentence is up to the judge’s discretion. If the crime was particularly selfish and caused a lot of harm, the person is more likely to suffer a harsh sentence.
Once all of these factors have been explored, there are three ways that the situation can be resolved. One is to have the charges dropped. This will typically occur if you’re able to prove your innocence, or your lawyer is able to prove that the prosecution doesn’t have enough evidence to prove you’ve committed a crime.
Another option is to take a plea deal. This is a choice that you may be offered by the prosecution. Typically, a plea deal will be a way for you to plead guilty to a lesser charge and receive a lighter sentence. A prosecutor may offer a plea deal as a way of resolving a case rather than bringing it all the way through the judicial process. You’ll need to talk to your lawyer about why they’re offering the deal and whether the prosecution has a case if you proceed with a trial.
If the prosecution declines to offer a plea deal, or you decide not to take a plea deal, the case will proceed to trial. Both the prosecution and the defense will argue their sides in front of a judge. The judge will make the final ruling on whether you’re guilty or innocent. Should you be judged guilty, the judge will then pass down a sentence that they believe befits the crime.
State and Federal Sentencing
When you’re tried in federal court, the sentencing guidelines aren’t mandatory. However, judges do follow them except in extreme circumstances. Federal cases are more formulaic and don’t involve so much negotiating with the prosecutor.
When you’re tried in a state court, as long as the crime doesn’t carry a mandatory minimum sentence, the prosecution undergoes more negotiation. The individuals involved in the situation have more of an ongoing conversation. Even in cases involving predicate felons, this negotiation process remains intact, though it does tend to have limits. Federal attorneys can negotiate with prosecutors regarding the sentencing of an embezzlement charge, but there tends to be more leeway in a state negotiation.
Mandatory Minimum Sentences
Some states have mandatory minimum sentences for embezzlement charges. One example is New York. In New York, if you embezzle more than a million dollars, you’ll be subject to a mandatory one to three years in prison, with a maximum twenty-five years in prison.