When most people think about crimes, they may think about robberies, burglaries, or more violent acts such as assault and murder. However, so-called white-collar crimes such as embezzlement and fraud are also serious crimes for which people can get hefty fines and prison sentences if they are convicted. If you’ve been charged with fraud or embezzlement, you need to hire an attorney who specialises in defending these crimes.
What Is Embezzlement?
Embezzlement can be committed by anyone in a company when he or she takes tangible property not belonging to him or her. However, the charge of embezzlement depends on whether the owner or employer had possession of the property when it was taken. If he or she did, then the charge would be larceny instead of embezzlement.
In Victoria, embezzlement can be a form of fraud if deception was used to obtain the property from a place of employment. The deception can be in the form of forging paperwork, trying to induce someone to believing a forged document is genuine, copying a document knowing it is false, or altering a document without the permission of the person who created it. Crimes such as fraud and embezzlement are very common and affect approximately 57% of all Australian organisations.
There are two main defences for embezzlement: either the defendant was under duress at the time of the theft or fraud or the crime was committed out of necessity. If someone coerced the defendant into stealing funds from his or her place of employment by threatening him or her or a family member, then criminal lawyers in Melbourne can use it as a defence to get the charges reduced or dropped. To prove the crime was committed under duress, the defence must prove:
- There was a serious threat to the individual or his or her family members.
- The threat involved death or serious injuries.
- The threat was ongoing.
- The threat was so serious that a person of sound mind would have committed the crime.
It is rare that the defence of duress is used in embezzlement cases but, if it is, then the prosecutor must be able to prove the defendant was under duress when he or she committed the crime.
The other defence for embezzlement is necessity, which means the defendant was in some sort of imminent peril when he or she took his or her employer’s property. A defence attorney must show that not only did the threat exist but that it was so serious it caused the actions taken by his or her client.
However, the embezzlement could not be disproportionate to the danger the client was under. For instance, if the client owed $25,000 in gambling debts to a bookmaker and was told to come up with the money or he or she would be hurt, then the necessity defence may not be appropriate if he or she had embezzled $1,000,000.
If convicted of embezzlement, you could face severe consequences, so you need to hire a criminal attorney with experience handling embezzlement and fraud cases. He or she can come up with a defence to keep you out of prison.