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How does West Virginia law define embezzlement?

On Behalf of | Apr 26, 2024 | White Collar Defense

Facing criminal charges in West Virginia can be a frightening experience, especially if you have never encountered any legal problems in the past. In some cases, the charges are cut-and-dry and easy to understand, such as shoplifting or auto theft. Other issues are more complex, which makes it difficult for the average person to handle a defense without experienced guidance. Take embezzlement, for example. Many people don’t even know what it is.

Embezzlement is an offense that falls under the white-collar crime category. State and federal laws typically define such crimes as non-violent offenses perpetrated for personal (usually financial) gain. At an arraignment hearing, a judge formally announces the charges you are facing and asks if you understand. Make sure you understand what embezzlement is before heading to court.

Embezzlement is a financial crime

The most basic explanation of embezzlement is that it is a misappropriation (misuse) of funds or assets entrusted to a specific individual or group. If someone has accused you of this white-collar crime, it means that prosecutors believe you used money or assets you had a right to possess in ways you were not supposed to use them.

For example, if your workplace duties include sending bills to clients and you bill someone for services not provided, then collect the money and use it to go shopping, it constitutes embezzlement in West Virginia and all other states. Not all embezzlement schemes are complex. For instance, an individual who steals money out of a cash register while working as a store clerk is guilty of embezzling funds.

Proving a white-collar crime can be difficult

To convict you of embezzlement, prosecutors must prove that you held a fiduciary duty (obligation) to the person or people you’re accused of defrauding. They must also show that you acquired the assets in question through your relationship with the person or people in question. Finally, the judge or jury must be convinced that your actions were intentional and did not occur because of human error.

If West Virginia police take you into custody and charge you with embezzlement, it is best to start building a strong defense right away. A conviction might result in substantial fines, as well as a lengthy prison sentence. The good news is that you do not have to try to refute charges on your own. As with all criminal charges, you have the right to request legal representation, which is usually the key to obtaining a positive outcome in court.