Embezzlement occurs when an individual or a company uses funds for a different purpose than they were intended for. In Texas, embezzlement is considered a serious crime, and the penalties can be harsh. For this reason, anyone charged with this type of financial crime should contact a Houston embezzlement defense lawyer as soon as possible and begin building their case.
Ask a Houston Embezzlement Defense Lawyer: 5 Steps to Prepare Your Case
1. Get Some Legal Advice
When you find out that the government is investigating you or after you get charged with embezzlement, you should contact a financial crime lawyer in your local area. The laws related to fraud and embezzlement are very complicated, and it’s unlikely that you will get a good outcome on your own.
If you’re not sure how to find a highly qualified attorney, you can begin by looking at websites of law firms near you. Check that they specialize in white-collar crime and have past experience dealing with cases similar to yours. Once you’ve found an attorney with good qualifications and reviews, you can get in touch and ask them for an initial consultation.
2. Understand the Relevant Laws
Around 203 million dollars are lost to financial crime each year in Texas. In an attempt to lower this figure, the government has developed a number of local and federal laws related to financial crimes. Your lawyer can help you understand which actions are considered fraud or embezzlement, what evidence the government must provide to make an arrest, and what the potential consequences of committing a financial crime are.
To be charged with embezzlement, you must have been entrusted with someone else’s money or property and used these assets for your own purposes. What’s more, the government must prove that you meant to abuse your power and permanently take the other person’s money or assets from them. If there is enough evidence to warrant an arrest and the value of the embezzled assets is high, you could face a lengthy prison sentence.
3. Decide Whether You Want to Plead Guilty or Innocent
After your arrest, the first court meeting is the arraignment. During this procedure, the judge will read out the charges brought against you and ask you to plead guilty or not guilty. In most cases, pleading not guilty is better because it leaves all options open and gives you more time to come up with an adequate defense.
If you plead guilty, you’re likely to spend a significant amount of time in jail. The average prison sentence for theft, fraud, and property destruction is 24 months. However, every case is different, and what’s right for someone else might not be applicable to your situation. Your lawyer will speak to you about what to say and how to plead ahead of the arraignment.
4. Explore Various Avenues
If you’ve been charged with embezzlement, you’re at risk of a punishment that could ruin your personal and professional life. Since the 1990s, the government has increased penalties for financial crimes significantly, with sentences nearly doubling from 1996 to 2011. But there are several ways you can fight for your rights. Your attorney could argue that you didn’t intend to commit a crime and that you believed the funds were yours when you used them.
It can be challenging to prove criminal intent, so this could be your best defense. Alternatively, you could argue that you took the money for a legitimate reason, for example, to pay for company expenses. Sometimes, defendants can also get acquitted if they were acting under duress, which is when someone else threatened the defendant or their family if they didn’t misuse the money or property.
5. Question the Government’s Evidence
The government is responsible for proving that you embezzled money, and if they are unable to do so, you won’t be charged. Highly skilled embezzlement defense lawyers in Houston will require the prosecutor to provide sufficient evidence. If there isn’t enough documentation or if a part of the evidence was not acquired in a legal way, your case could be dismissed.
For instance, your attorney could bring a motion to suppress evidence if it was obtained illegally. This is possible if your rights, for example, the right to remain silent or the right to an attorney, have been violated. Additionally, your lawyer could state that there is not enough evidence to conclusively prove that you are at fault. Instead, someone else might have committed the crime. Without sufficient proof, the government can’t charge you with embezzlement.
In Texas, embezzlement is considered a serious crime and punished harshly. If you’ve been charged or are being investigated, you should seek out legal counsel as soon as possible. Together with your lawyer, you can go through the relevant laws and decide on the best way to fight for your rights. There might be a way to prove that you didn’t take the money, acted under duress, or had no criminal intent.