Fulton County Embezzlement Lawyer
Embezzlement charges arise most frequently in professional settings, such as in corporations or government offices, which is why many refer to it as a “white-collar” crime. These charges can lead to significant adverse repercussions if you are convicted. As a result, consulting a Fulton County embezzlement lawyer may be advantageous if you are accused of committing this crime.
An embezzlement conviction may cause you to serve a significant term of incarceration and to pay high fines. In many cases, you may lose your job or your professional credentials. As one of our skilled attorneys at Hawkins Spizman advise, this crime also creates a permanent criminal record that is likely to impact your personal and professional life in the future adversely.
Defining Embezzlement Under State Law
Georgia state law does not have a separate crime of embezzlement. However, under O.C.G.A. § 16-8-4, embezzlement is a form of theft by conversion. Therefore, embezzlement convictions are subject to the same sentencing under the penalties for theft by conversion.
Embezzlement involves the theft of money or property from others by legally accessing the assets, and converting it to your own use. For instance, due to the nature of their employment, an investment advisor might have access to investment accounts belonging to their clients. Likewise, bank employees and officers have access to customer accounts.
The following elements must exist for embezzlement to occur:
- A fiduciary relationship between the individuals and the property owners,
- Use of the fiduciary relationship to gain access to the assets,
- Intentionally taking ownership over the property of others or transferring it to third parties.
Embezzlement may consist of an individual exerting unauthorized control over the assets of others in small amounts over time or large sums in only a few transactions. This code section also states explicitly that theft by conversion is presumed when officers or employees of governments or financial institutions fail to pay on an account when requested to do so by the account owners. If you are facing accusations of having committed any of these forms of theft by conversion in the local area, you want to seek guidance from an experienced embezzlement lawyer.
Felony and Misdemeanor Embezzlement Charges
The level of theft by conversion charges depends on the value of the money or property involved in the offense. A prior history of theft convictions also can impact the level of the charge. For instance, a third conviction for theft by conversion can lead to a felony theft instead of a misdemeanor theft charge.
In cases involving the theft of money or property worth $1,500 or less, the applicable theft by conversion charge is a misdemeanor offense. As the value of the property increases, the charge becomes a felony and carries the potential for steadily increasing penalties. However, O.C.G.A. § 16-8-12 allows judges sentencing people in theft by conversion cases to enter a conviction of a misdemeanor as opposed to a felony if the embezzled assets are worth less than $25,000.
Penalties for Embezzlement Convictions
The potential sentences for theft by conversion convictions vary widely, primarily according to the value of the property involved. Under O.C.G.A. § 16-8-12, prison sentences range from a maximum of 20 years for property worth $25,000 or more to a minimum of one year for property worth $1,500.01 or more. As an embezzlement attorney familiar with Georgia law can explain, the maximum potential prison sentence decreases according to the corresponding decreases in the value of the stolen assets.
Special penalties of one to 15 years in prison exist for theft by conversion convictions in which people breach a fiduciary obligation or who take property in the course of their official duties as government officers or employees. Likewise, these penalties also apply to officers or employees who take property in their official duties at a financial institution. This sentence range does not depend on the value of the property involved in the offense.
Work with a Fulton County Embezzlement Attorney Today
Although conversion usually refers to the unlawful taking of property that does not belong to you, theft by conversion assumes that you have lawful access to or possession of the property. This distinction in definitions places embezzlement squarely in the category of theft by conversion.
If you are facing charges for theft by conversion under state law, you could be facing incarceration, fines, and other unwanted penalties. As these potential penalties can be harsh and significantly impact your employment in many cases, you want to contact a Fulton County embezzlement lawyer at Hawkins Spizman.