Embezzlement in Wisconsin falls under the category of theft or larceny, and involves the taking of property or money that the person has been entrusted to guard, or use only for specified, non-personal purpose.
Most often, it is in an employment situation. For example, a bank teller has physical access to money in their drawer or the vault, but is not allowed to take the money home.
But embezzlement goes beyond cash. Taking company property such as computers or vehicles to use for an unauthorized personal purpose can be considered embezzlement. Even an employee who has a habit of raiding the company supply closet of post-its, pens, and printer paper to use at home may potentially be charged with embezzlement.
What Differentiates Embezzlement From Other Theft?
In order for theft or larceny to be subject to embezzlement punishment the following needs to be true
- There needs to be a relationship where one party relies on the other.
- The property needs to have acquired the property based on the relationship, and not in an unrelated way.
- The person accused of embezzlement needs to have taken ownership of the property, or transferred it to someone else.
- The act needs to be intentional
Often, when a criminal defense attorney is representing someone accused of embezzlement in Wisconsin, they will do so by using a strategy that calls into question the truth of one or more of these statements.
However, if you have been accused of embezzlement or another white collar crime, it is best to keep quiet about your take on the situation and speak to an attorney instead. Your Miranda rights give you the right to remain silent during the arrest process, and your fifth rights give you the right to refuse to incriminate yourself.
Penalties for Embezzlement
When it comes to embezzlement situations, the seriousness of and penalties for the crime can vary greatly depending on what has been taken and the extent that a person has violated their position of trust. In most cases, all of these things will be considered when determining embezzlement sentencing.
At its core, however, it is theft. This means it is primarily the value of the money or property that carries the most influence.
If the property in question is valued somewhere less than $2,500, the charge will likely be for a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a sentence of up to 9 months in jail and up to a $10,000 fine.
More serious embezzlement charges will likely be considered felonies, which carry consequences in graduating severity depending on the value of the property taken.
- For property valued at $2,500 - $5,000, embezzlement is considered a Class I Felony, which can lead to jail up to 3.5 years, and/or a fine up to $10,000.
- Theft of property valued at $5,000-10,000 is considered a Class H Felony, and can potentially bring a fine up to $10,000 and/or a six year jail sentence. In some cases, sentencing can be doled out in line with a class H felony even when values are determined to be less than $5,000 if the property:
- is from a destroyed building
- is taken after a physical disaster or during a riot
- belongs to a "person at risk," such as a patient at a nursing home or hospital
- is a firearm or a domestic animal.
- The most severe consequences come with a Class G Felony, which is the potential charge for those who have stolen property valued at $10,000 or more. If convicted, the person can potentially spend up to ten years in jail, and/or pay a fine up to $25,000. Property that is taken from a corpse is also subject to a charge of a class G felony, regardless of the value.
In addition to arguing whether or not there is an intent to steal property, or disprove a business relationship, an attorney can also argue the value of the property stolen.
For example, the prosecution may argued the theft of an expensive item or information while the defense maintains that the thing that was stolen has little monetary value, and possibly keep charges at the misdemeanor level.
Because embezzlement is considered a white collar crime, where people are not typically physically hurt, an attorney can sometimes stress this point in order to reduce the length of a sentence or a lesser fine.
If you've been charged with embezzlement in Wisconsin, Stangl Law Offices in Madison, WI is ready to listen to your side of the story. Contact us to set up a consultation and find out what steps we can take to present a strong case.