Even though embezzlement charges are not violent in nature, they are still considered a very serious crime in Illinois. Case-in-point? Embezzling only $501 from a business could lead to felony charges and years behind bars.
Because of this, it is vital that anyone charged puts together the best defense possible. How do you do this? What exactly is the “best” defense?
The answer is different in every case. It will depend upon the unique facts of your situation, and it is best determined by a knowledgeable Illinois criminal defense attorney.
That being said, there are a number of strategies that are commonly used to battle embezzlement and other types of white collar crimes. Learning about them can give you a better sense of possible ways that you might argue against conviction.
Below, we’re going to detail several of these defenses.
No Intention to Commit a Crime
A key word in our state’s definition of embezzlement is intentional. If you did not intend to commit embezzlement, but rather did so out of confusion or lack of knowledge, you may be able to use this as a defense strategy. For example, if your supervisors did not properly instruct you on the proper way to handle cash or what counts as embezzlement, you could use this negligence as evidence.
CEOs and senior board members are not the only people who may be accused of embezzlement. Entry-level employees may also be accused if they were given the responsibility of handling money. Not all of these employees commit embezzlement with evil intentions. Many people feel pressured to follow through on orders, even if they are unsure about the ethics or legality of them.
Say you were scared to lose your job or face violence if you did not commit some form of embezzlement. If so, you may be able to use duress as a defense strategy. In order for this defense to work, you will need to offer a strong argument that you committed the acts out of serious fears set by a higher authority at your place of work.
Remember, you are innocent until proven guilty.
Did you know that two out of five embezzlement charges are dropped due to insufficient evidence? The more you disprove evidence brought up by the prosecutors, the more likely you will be one of those two cases. Producing an alibi, discrediting witnesses, and other strategies can attack each piece of evidence until there is nothing left to prove that you committed a crime.
Statute of Limitations Ran Out
Prosecutors cannot charge you for federal embezzlement if the alleged act occurred over five years ago. Plain and simple. Illinois state prosecutors have an even shorter statute of limitations; if you allegedly committed embezzlement over three years ago, you cannot be charged for your crimes.
Repaid the Embezzled Money
If you paid back the money that was allegedly embezzled, everything should be good, right?
Not exactly. While fines and restitution are often a part of embezzlement penalties, repayment is not an end-all defense. However, you may face less severe punishments if you managed to make reparations while you were awaiting trial.
Again, the best defense strategy for you will depend upon the specific facts of your case. You may not use any of these. You may use pieces of several.
Whatever you do, though, consult with an experienced Chicago criminal lawyer as early in the process as possible. The more time he or she has to craft your defense, the better your chances.
About the Author
Sami Azhari has been working as a lawyer since 2007, after receiving his Juris Doctor from the Michigan State University College of Law. He has handled numerous state and federal cases, and is known throughout the Chicago and Rolling Meadows area for providing his clients with high-quality, skilled representation. He has been recognized by SuperLawyers, the National Trial Lawyers Association, and other notable organizations, and has spoken at a number of legal conferences.