Embezzlement is a serious criminal offense. As described by Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute, the charge covers the fraudulent taking of money or property by a person to whom it was entrusted. Embezzlement often (but not always) involves allegations that an individual stole money or misappropriated funds from an employer. In this article, our Fairfax theft defense attorneys provide a brief guide to embezzlement charges in Virginia.
Virginia Statute: Embezzlement
Under Virginia law (Code of Virginia § 18.2-111), a person may be charged with embezzlement if they wrongfully and fraudulently use, dispose of, or conceal funds or property entrusted to them—either through employment relationship or through any other type of privileged relationship. Embezzlement is a form of larceny. Here are the two levels of embezzlement charges in Virginia:
- Misdemeanor Embezzlement: A person charged with embezzling money or property from an employer or through any other position of trust may face misdemeanor charges if the total value of the assets is below $500. A misdemeanor embezzlement charge is still a serious offense.
- Felony Embezzlement: If the total value of money/assets taken exceeds $500, then the defendant may face felony embezzlement charges. In Virginia, felony embezzlement is a serious offense that carries significant jail time and other consequences.
Note: In certain circumstances, embezzlement may be charged as a federal offense under 18 U.S.C. § 666(a)(1)(A). Embezzlement becomes a federal crime if federal funds are implicated. To be clear, the money does not have to be taken directly from a government agency, The statute also covers funds that are controlled by a private entity, but were obtained through a federal government contract.
What are the Penalties for Embezzlement in Virginia?
The penalties associated with an embezzlement charge will depend on many different factors, the most important being the amount that was allegedly misappropriated. Here is an overview of the penalties:
- A misdemeanor embezzlement charge in Virginia carries a maximum punishment of 12 months in jail, a $2,500 fine, and payment of restitution to the victim.
- The maximum penalty for a felony embezzlement charge in Virginia is 20 years in jail, a $2,500 fine, and payment of full financial restitution.
Of course, embezzlement, like other serious criminal offenses, may carry additional consequences. For example, an accusation of embezzlement may have professional consequences. If convicted, a defendant could lose their job and even a professional license.
How to Defend an Embezzlement Charge in Virginia
Every defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. If you were charged with embezzlement, you have the right to raise a defense. How embezzlement charges should be defended depend entirely on the specific circumstances of the case. Valid legal defenses against embezzlement include:
- Accounting/paperwork mistake (no criminal intent);
- Mistaken identity (another party committed the offense); and
- Good faith belief that they were entitled to take/use the property.
If you were accused of embezzlement, an experienced Fairfax criminal defense attorney will help you determine the best path forward. A proactive approach is always best in embezzlement cases. In some circumstances, an aggressive defense may be appropriate to challenge false and unsubstantiated charges. In other cases, it may be more effective to focus on reducing penalties.
Call Our Fairfax, VA Embezzlement Defense Lawyers for Immediate Help
At Whitestone Young, PC, our Virginia criminal defense attorneys are aggressive, trustworthy advocates for clients. If you or your family member is facing an embezzlement charge, we are more than prepared to help. Contact our team today for a strictly confidential, no commitment initial consultation. From our legal office in Fairfax, we represent defendants throughout Northern Virginia, including in Merrifield, Falls Church, Vienna, Oakton, and Springfield.