Theft charges were brought too late, leading to reversal of conviction

Being charged with a crime is always a serious matter. Even if you are charged with a so-called " white-collar crime," such as theft or embezzlement, you may still face time in prison or heavy fines.

Regardless of the charge, experienced defense counsel should review every aspect of the case, from whether evidence was obtained in a constitutional manner, to whether the charged offenses occurred within the timeframe required by law, known as the "statute of limitations."

The recent case of Jannuzzo v. State provides an example where the Georgia Court of Appeals found the deadline for criminal charges had not been observed.

Former employee accused of theft

The defendant was an employee of a gun manufacturer. The company sometimes loaned guns to employees to be used for demonstrations, displays or as sales samples. The defendant had checkout out and returned a particular pistol a number of times over a couple years, but after the last time, the company's records showed the gun was not returned.

Several years later, the defendant left his employment with the company and had at least one conversation with the former general counsel of the company regarding firearms he still possessed. Approximately two years after that, the company reported the pistol was "lost or stolen." When police were at the defendant's house on an unrelated matter, the pistol was found in the defendant's possession. The defendant had never denied having possession of the pistol.

The defendant was convicted of theft by conversion, among other charges. The defendant appealed the conviction stating that the charges had not occurred within the applicable statute of limitations.

When did the company know the pistol was removed?

The Georgia Court of Appeals noted that the burden was on the state to prove that the charged offenses occurred within the applicable statue of limitations, or that an exception to the limitation applied. For this felony theft-by-conversion charge, the prosecution was not commenced within the required four-year period. However, the prosecution alleged that an exception applied because the crime was unknown to the state.

For purposes of this exception, the actual knowledge of the victim would be imputed-that is, attributed to-the state. Therefore, the four-year statute of limitation for the prosecution began to run on the date that the victim, the gun company, had actual knowledge of the offense.

The company kept written records of the whereabouts of every gun it owned and loaned, and the company knew that the defendant had the gun when he left the company. The defendant had then confirmed he had the gun during his conversation several weeks later with the company's general counsel.

Thus, the company had actual knowledge of the "theft" more than six years prior to the indictment, well beyond the four-year limit. The defendant's conviction was therefore reversed.

Protect your reputation and freedom

As this case demonstrates, the prosecution may take an aggressive approach to pursuing criminal charges against an individual, even with regard to a "white collar" crime. If you are charged with such a crime, immediately seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney who will explore all options to protecting your reputation and your freedom.