Definition of Employee Theft
In Florida, crimes constituting “employee theft” are defined in Section 812.014, Florida Statutes. As applied in Section 812.014, theft by an employee occurs where:
- The employee knowingly and unlawfully takes or attempts to take the property of an employer; and
- The employee does so with the intent to temporarily or permanently deprive the employer of his or her rights to the property, or to appropriate the property to the employee’s own use.
Technically speaking, there is no statutory provision classifying “employee theft” as a separate type of theft crime under Florida law. Theft crimes will be classified as either grand theft or petit theft, depending on the value of the property taken.
Employee theft is best viewed as a term to denote a theft offense that takes place in the context of an employer-employee relationship. The maximum penalties available for the offense, and the factual elements required to establish the offense, are the same as grand theft and petit theft. Thus, if a defendant is charged in an Information with Employee Theft- $300-$5000, the allegation constitutes felony grand theft (third degree), based on the value of the property taken.
Penalties for Employee Theft
The range of penalties available in an employee theft case will depend on the value of the property taken.
- Where the amount taken is $300 or more, but under $20,000, the offense will be classified as a third degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison or 5 years of probation and a $5,000 fine.
- Where the amount is $20,000 or more, but less than $100,000, the offense is a second degree felony, with penalties up to 15 years in prison or 15 years of probation, and a $10,000 fine.
- Where the amount equals or exceeds $100,000, the employee theft constitutes a first degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison or 30 years of probation, and a maximum fine of $10,000.
Throughout Florida, the penalties sought by prosecutors for employee theft crimes are generally harsher than conventional theft offenses. Employee theft crimes are viewed differently for several reasons.
First, employees can cause immense economic harm in the positions of trust that they occupy, and a special need exists to deter these types of offenses from occurring in the first place. Second, employers often insist upon harsher sanctions in order to send a “zero tolerance” message in the workplace.
Third, employee theft cases often involve a larger loss amount than ordinary theft, due to the employee’s ready-access to money and other property. Lastly, employers are viewed as unique victims, with influence and resources beyond those of ordinary individuals.
In cases throughout Florida, it is not uncommon for prosecutors to seek significant jail or prison time for even first-time offenders. The offer made in the case will depend on the individual prosecutor, the penalties desired by the employer-victim, the amount of the loss, the prior record of the accused, the judge presiding over the case, and any aggravating or mitigating factors involved.
Defenses to Employee Theft
In Florida, all defenses available to contest a conventional theft charge will apply where an individual is accused of employee theft. The most common defenses for these types of cases include the following:
- Lack of Intent;
- Obtaining or Using for Lawful Purpose;
- Defendant Acted out of Necessity or Duress;
- Mistake of Fact;
- Lack of Evidence; The evidence the State of Florida has against an employee accused of theft can be deficient in many respects. Where there is no confession and/or no independent corroborating evidence (eyewitnesses with personal knowledge; video surveillance; exclusive access, etc.), it can often be difficult to attribute a loss to any particular individual, or to even prove that the loss occurred as a result of a theft, and not because of accounting irregularities, problems in assessing inventory, poor record-keeping, miscounts, etc;
- Incorrect amount of loss/taking alleged.
Contact An Attorney
If you have been charged with Employee Theft in West Palm Beach or the surrounding areas of Southeast Florida, including Broward County, Martin County, and St. Lucie County, it is critical that you retain an attorney at the early stages of your case.
Even where no viable defenses exist to contest the charge, it is often possible to resolve these cases without criminal charges being brought, or to enroll the accused into a pretrial intervention program so as to avoid a conviction or plea. Charges may also be reduced, or negotiated to avoid a permanent criminal record or prison.
contact attorney Steven Sessa today for a free consultation.