Does Florida Have an Embezzlement Statute?
The word “embezzlement” typically calls to mind a complex scheme in which an executive funnels money out of a company, and transfers funds in and out of various accounts to cover it up. But embezzlement can be quite simple. It refers to the crime of taking something that’s been entrusted to you. If a farmer hires a shepherd to tend to his sheep, and the shepherd steals the sheep, then the shepherd is guilty of embezzlement.
There are quite a few federal laws that deal with embezzlement. Chapter 31 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code is devoted entirely to embezzlement and theft offenses. It contains statutes such as Theft or Embezzlement from Employment Benefit Plan, Theft, Embezzlement or Misapplication by Bank Examiner or Employee, and Theft or Embezzlement in Connection With Health Care.
However, if you look at Florida’s crime statutes, you won’t find any that mention embezzlement. This doesn’t mean that Florida doesn’t recognize embezzlement as a crime. It’s the result of Florida lawmakers choosing to draft a theft statute that is broad enough to include crimes of embezzlement.Florida’s Theft Statute
Florida Statute 812.014 defines theft in the following way:
A person commits theft if he or she knowingly obtains or uses the property of someone else with intent to:
- Deprive the other person of a right to the property or a benefit from the property; or
- Appropriate the property to his or her own use.
This definition of theft is written in such a way that it applies to embezzlement. Someone who is entrusted with property and steals it – or temporarily borrows it – will have violated this statute, even though they initially took the property with permission.
Statute 812.014 classifies theft in a variety of different ways. The most severe punishments are reserved for those who commit grand theft of the first degree (which is a first degree felony). Stealing any of the following types of property is classified as grand theft of the first degree:
- Property valued at $100,000 or more;
- A semitrailer that was deployed by a law enforcement officer; or
- Cargo valued at $50,000 or more, if it has entered interstate or intrastate commerce.
In addition, it will be considered grand theft of the first degree if the person committing theft does more than $1,000 worth of damage to someone else’s property, and/or if the person uses a motor vehicle to assist in committing the offense, and damages the real property of another in doing so.
Other forms of theft are classified by Statute 812.014 as grand theft of the second degree, or as grand theft of the third degree, or as misdemeanors.Being Charged Under Florida’s Theft Statute
In addition to the criminal punishments for theft, there can be devastating professional consequences for someone who is convicted of stealing property to which they were entrusted. If you have been charged with embezzlement under Florida’s theft statute, it is essential that you receive the best legal defense possible. You can call or email the office of Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney Mark S. Lowry today, and get the help you need.