Embezzlement And Its Legal Implications In Texas
Embezzlement, a form of property theft, is aggressively prosecuted in Texas. It involves the unlawful appropriation of property by someone who was entrusted with it, often in a professional or fiduciary capacity. The consequences of a conviction for embezzlement are significant and can result in lasting effects on an individual's life, including potential imprisonment, fines, and a permanent criminal record.
The skilled white-collar defense attorneys at Cofer & Connelly, PLLC can break down what Texas law says about embezzlement charges so that if you’re facing allegations of wrongdoing, you’ll better understand what’s ahead. We’ll also explain how our embezzlement attorneys can provide essential support to those facing charges, as seeking experienced legal representation when facing embezzlement charges is a necessity, not a luxury.
What Does Texas Law Say About Embezzlement?
Texas Penal Code Sections 31.02 and 31.03 are particularly relevant to embezzlement cases. Essentially, embezzlement, along with other forms of theft such as shoplifting and swindling, is treated as part of the general theft law. This consolidation indicates a streamlined approach to theft offenses, acknowledging the often-overlapping nature of these crimes.
The law states that a person commits a theft crime if they illegally appropriate property while intending to deprive the rightful owner of that property. Appropriation is unlawful if it occurs without the owner's effective consent, involves property known to be stolen, or is represented as stolen by law enforcement.
The law also outlines the severity of any particular theft offense based on the value of the property that has been stolen. Penalties range from those associated with a Class C misdemeanor (punishable by a $500 fine) for any property worth less than $100 to a felony of the first degree (punishable by up to life imprisonment and a $10,000 fine) for property worth $300,000 or more. The law also details specific provisions for theft involving public servants, the elderly, nonprofit organizations, and certain types of property like firearms and motor vehicles.
Defending You Against Embezzlement Charges in Austin
Lack Of Intent To Deprive
One of the primary defenses against a charge of embezzlement under Texas law is the absence of intent to deprive an owner of their property. Since embezzlement is a form of theft, the prosecution must show that the defendant had the intention to deprive a property owner of their property. If the defense can establish that there was no such intent, or that the individual believed they had a rightful claim or authorization to use the property in the manner they did, this can serve as a strong defense.
Mistake Of Fact
Another viable defense is the mistake of fact. This occurs when the individual genuinely believed that they had the right to the property or were under the impression that they had consent from the owner. For instance, if an employee mistakenly thought they were authorized to use company funds for a specific purpose, this could potentially negate the element of unlawful appropriation required for a conviction.
Return Of Property
While not an absolute defense to embezzlement, returning the stolen property can sometimes play a role in a broader defense strategy. It may help in negotiating plea deals or reducing potential penalties, especially if the return of property is coupled with a lack of criminal history and other mitigating factors. However, this does not automatically negate the illegal act of embezzlement and should be considered more as a mitigating factor than a primary defense.
In an embezzlement case, the prosecution must provide evidence that establishes each element of the offense. If the evidence presented is weak, inconsistent, or leaves room for reasonable doubt, this can be a strong defense strategy.
Frequently Asked Questions About Embezzlement Under Texas Law
What Is Embezzlement?
Embezzlement in Texas is considered a form of theft. It occurs when an individual illegally appropriates property while intending to deprive the owner of it. This typically involves someone who has been entrusted with someone else's property, misappropriating it for their own use.
How Is Embezzlement Different From Theft?
While embezzlement is categorized under the broader umbrella of theft offenses, it is distinct due to the element of trust or fiduciary responsibility involved. Embezzlement involves misappropriating assets that had been legally entrusted to the defendant, whereas general theft can involve property that the defendant had no legal access to or authority over.
What Are The Penalties For Embezzlement In Texas?
The penalties for embezzlement in Texas depend on the value of the property embezzled. It can range from $500 to $10,000 in fines. With a Class C misdemeanor, no jail time is imposed, but for a first-degree felony, the sentence could be up to life imprisonment. Higher penalties are also applicable in cases involving public servants or where the property belongs to certain vulnerable groups like the elderly or nonprofit organizations.
Can I Be Charged With Embezzlement If I Intended To Return The Property?
Yes, in Texas, the intent to return the property does not necessarily negate an embezzlement charge. The critical factor is the unlawful appropriation of the property with the intent to deprive the owner, however you intended to adjust your approach in the future.
Is Consent A Defense To Embezzlement?
Consent can be a defense if it can be proven that the owner gave consent for the use of the property at issue. However, this defense depends on the specifics of how and why the consent was given and whether it was for the particular use that led to the charge.
What Should I Do If I Am Accused Of Embezzlement?
If accused of embezzlement, it's crucial to seek legal counsel immediately. An attorney can help you understand your rights, the nature of the charges, and the potential defenses that may be available to you.
Contact Skilled Embezzlement Lawyers in Austin, TX
If you or someone you know has been accused of embezzlement, it's imperative to act quickly and seek professional legal assistance. Cofer & Connelly, PLLC criminal defense lawyers are experienced in handling embezzlement cases and can provide the guidance and representation necessary to handle these complex charges. We are dedicated to defending our clients’ rights and achieving a favorable outcome in their cases. Don't hesitate to reach out to us for support during this challenging time. Reach out to Cofer & Connelly, PLLC at (512) 991-0576 or online today to schedule a consultation.
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