Most people use the terms “stealing” and “embezzlement” as if they were the same thing, but they are different in the eyes of the law. Both involve taking someone else’s money, but embezzlement occurs when someone in a position of trust with financial responsibility misappropriates funds or, in other situations, steals money from another person. Hence, embezzlement in Tennessee carries harsher penalties than theft.
Tennessee Law (TCA 40-13-221) defines embezzlement as “the fraudulent appropriation of property by an agent or employee for their own use or benefit.” It is important to note that under this definition, there must be an element of trust between the person committing the crime and the victim. For this charge to suffice in Tennessee, the defendant must have taken money or other items belonging to someone else while still having authority over them.
Common examples of embezzlement
Embezzlement can occur when an employee charges more than the product cost while pocketing the difference. It can also occur when a bank teller with access to cash removes money from an account without permission. Another example is when a manager adds a fake employee to the company’s payroll and pockets that salary.
Penalties for embezzlement in Tennessee
In Tennessee, the penalties for embezzlement vary widely based on the size of the crime and if the defendant has any prior convictions. If the property embezzled was worth $500 or less, the defendant could likely face up to 11 months in jail and pay $2500 in fines. If the property was worth more than $500, the charge increases to a felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison and fines ranging from $3000 to $25,000.
Defenses for embezzlement in Tennessee
Embezzlement charges require trust between the accused and the victim. If you or your criminal defense attorney can prove that no such trust existed, there may be a lack of proof for this charge. Additionally, if you were wrongfully accused or did not act with criminal intent, it is possible to argue a mistake of fact or lack of intent.
Embezzlement is a serious charge in Tennessee that could even damage your career and reputation in your field. It’s essential to prioritize dealing with the accusations before they cause irreparable damage.