In West Palm Beach, the crime of embezzlement is prosecuted under the state’s theft laws. Just like theft, embezzlement is defined as willing fully taking someone’s money or property without the person’s consent, and with intent to (temporarily or permanently) deprive the person of it.
The distinguishing feature of embezzlement is that the person has legal access to the money or property in question. However, they don’t have legal ownership of it. An example is a bank teller who is trusted to handle clients’ money or a driver who is entrusted with a company car.
When the bank teller takes the clients’ money, or the driver takes the company car, it is considered embezzlement. This is because they both have legal access to the money and car respectively. If someone not employed in the bank takes the same amount of money from the teller’s pile, it is considered theft.
How Embezzlement Is Classified
Embezzlement can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. There are four factors which are normally considered when placing the charge.
The first is the value of the property, or amount of money embezzled. Generally speaking, embezzling property or money of less than $300 is considered a misdemeanor. Anything amounting to $300 or more is considered a felony.
The second is the nature of the property embezzled. Embezzling a firearm, a controlled substance (illegal drug), any stop sign or fire extinguisher is charged as a felony. It doesn’t matter whether the dollar value is less than $300.
The third is the defendant’s criminal record. Anyone who has a prior conviction for embezzlement will be charged with a felony, even if the amount embezzled is less than $300.
The final factor is whether or not a State of Emergency has been declared by the governor. Embezzling critical supplies like medical equipment or law enforcement equipment during a state of emergency will draw a felony charge. It doesn’t matter whether the dollar value of the equipment is less than $300.
In a nutshell, those are the four factors which can be used to determine whether or not embezzlement is charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.
Embezzlement as a Felony
Not every felony for embezzlement is the same. There are actually three possible felony classifications for embezzlement. These are felony of the first degree, felony of the second degree and felony of the third degree. Each of these has its criteria and stipulated punishments.
Felony of the First Degree
A person can be charged with a felony of the first degree, if they embezzled according to the following conditions:
• Money or property valued at $100,000 or more.
• Cargo in a shipper’s loading platform which is valued at $50,000 or more.
• Property valued at $50,000 or more embezzled during a state of Emergency.
• The penalties for a felony of the first-degree conviction include a fine of up to $30,000; a prison sentence of up to 30 years, or both.
Felony of the Second Degree
A person can be charged with a felony of the second-degree if they embezzle according to the following conditions:
• Money or property of $20,000 or more, but below $100,000 in value.
• Cargo of less than $50,000 in a shipper’s loading platform.
• Medical equipment or law enforcement equipment of $300 or more during a state of Emergency.
• Coordinating with one or more people to embezzle property or money worth $3,000 or more.
Felony of the Third Degree
A person can be charged with a felony of the third-degree if they embezzle according to the following conditions:
• Money or property of $300 or more, but below $20,000 in value.
• Embezzle the following kinds of property: a firearm, controlled substance, a will, fire extinguisher, commercially farmed animal or stop sign.
• Has two prior convictions for misdemeanor embezzlement.
• A person convicted of a third-degree felony for embezzlement can be fined up to $5,000 or jailed for up to 5 years, or both.
Embezzlement as a Misdemeanor
Similar to felonies, embezzlement misdemeanor charges don’t come equal. A person who embezzles can be charged with a misdemeanor of the first or second degree. The parameters and punishments also vary.
Misdemeanor of the First Degree
First-degree misdemeanor is the most serious misdemeanor in West Palm Beach, punishable by a jail term of up to 1 year and a fine of up to $1,000. An example of this misdemeanor is theft of property with a value of $100 or more, but lower than $300.
Misdemeanor of the Second Degree
Second-degree misdemeanor is the least serious misdemeanor in West Palm Beach, and a conviction will result in a jail term of 60 days and a $500 fine. All misdemeanors that aren’t classified by lawmakers are punishable as second-degree misdemeanors. An example of this misdemeanor is prostitution.