If charged with embezzlement, you could face a federal court, or a state court could hear your case, depending on the circumstances. In either case, embezzlement is a serious matter, as well as a complicated one.
Embezzlement begins with property in your lawful possession, though not belonging to you. If you were to then use it in a way that goes against your agreement with the property owner, there could then be an embezzlement case against you.
The requirements to prosecute an embezzlement charge are different from those of a comparable crime like larceny. Here are some important distinctions that set embezzlement apart.
- Embezzlement requires intent
Embezzlement does not happen by accident. The prosecution must be able to demonstrate a mens rea, i.e., an intent to defraud the owner of the property. If you honestly believed you had a right to use the property as you did, there is no embezzlement case against you.
- You cannot embezzle any property which you at least partly own
If you are one of two or more co-owners of a particular property and you were to misappropriate it for your own uses, it is not embezzlement. However, it is still possible that you could face a different criminal charge.
- You must have had lawful possession of the property
In other words, the owner must have placed it into your care. If you took unlawful possession of the property, you would almost certainly face criminal charges if discovered, but not for embezzlement.
- More types of property are subject to embezzlement than to larceny
Larceny generally refers to taking property unlawfully and carrying it away. Therefore, larceny charges typically do not apply to real estate and the buildings upon it. However, if the owner of a building or a piece of real estate were to entrust it to you, and you were to convert it to your own use against the agreement that you have with the owner, that would qualify as embezzlement.
Penalties for embezzlement in Georgia include fines between $1,000 and $100,000. If convicted, you could serve a prison term between one to 10 years.