Employee Theft in Florida
Employee theft can occur in a variety of ways. Let’s say you work at a furniture store and have needed a couch to complete the place, so you lift a couch from the store and sneakily bring it back to your apartment, hoping no one will notice. That would constitute employee theft. It could also occur if you are working at a store and skim some money from the point-of-sale system without authorization in order to pay a past-due rent bill. If you have taken an employer’s property or money with the intent to permanently deprive them of that money or property, then that taking will be considered employee theft.
Under Florida law, employee theft is a criminal act that involves the unlawful taking of an employer’s property or money with the intent to permanently deprive them of that money or property. These crimes are severely prosecuted in the state of Florida, like all other theft crimes, and can often result in a felony conviction on your permanent criminal record, jail time, and heavy fines if you don’t have the assistance of an experienced and aggressive Tallahassee criminal defense attorney.
The Statute – Florida Statute Section 812.014
The crime of employee theft is governed by the general theft statute, Florida Statute Section 812.014. Under the statute’s application, employee theft occurs in situations where:
- The employee has knowingly and unlawfully attempted to take or actually took the money or property of their employer; and
- The employee performed the attempted or actual taking with the intent to
- permanently or temporarily deprive the employer of their right to the money or property; or
- appropriate the property to the employee’s personal use.
In order to secure a conviction, the State needs to prove that the above-mentioned situation occurred beyond a reasonable doubt.
There is no specific statute provided solely for the crime of “employee theft,” so the offense will be classified just as regular theft is – depending on the value of the stolen money or property and divided into either grand theft or petit theft.
Employee Theft Penalties
Just like regular theft crimes, the penalties for employee theft are contingent on the value of the stolen goods or money. The penalties are:
Value $300 – $20,000
Under this value bracket, employee theft is punishable by up to five years of prison/five years of probation, and a fine of up to $5,000. This crime is classified as a third-degree felony.
Value $20,000 to $100,000
Under this value bracket, employee theft is punishable by up to fifteen years in prison/fifteen years of probation, and a fine of up to $10,000. This crime is classified as a second-degree felony.
Value $100,000 or Above
Under this value bracket, employee theft is punishable by up to thirty years in prison/thirty years of probation, and a fine of up to $10,000. This crime is classified as a first-degree felony.
In Florida, employee theft crimes are prosecuted very harshly because of the context of the employee/employer relationship. This is because employees are in a position of trust with their employer, so they have the ability to cause severe economic harm. Due to this, prosecutors want to pursue harsh convictions for these crimes in order to deter future acts of employee theft. Furthermore, employers will pursue harsh sanctions against employees for stealing in the workplace due to common “zero tolerance policies” regarding theft. Additionally, employee theft has a larger potential for high-value stolen items or money because the employee usually has regular and easy access to the employer’s money and property.
Even for first-offenses, prosecutors in Florida will generally seek out jail or prison time. Keep in mind, these factors can vary depending on the prosecutor, the amount of property or money stolen, the defendant’s criminal record, the attitude of the presiding judge, any aggravating or mitigating factors, and the mindset of the employer.
Employee Theft Defenses
Defenses to employee theft will vary depending on the specific factual circumstances present. However, some common defenses include:
- No Intent Present to Permanently or Temporarily Deprive
- The Accused Obtained or Used the Property/Money for a Lawful Purpose
- The Accused Stole/Deprived Due to Duress or Necessity
- Employer Consent
- Mistaken Factual Situation
- Lack of Evidence Due to:
- No Eyewitnesses
- No Cameras
- No Evidence the Loss is Due to Any One Person
- No Evidence the Loss was Due to Theft
- Mistaken Accounting Ledgers
- Mistaken Inventory Ledgers
- Mistaken Value or Stolen Money/Property
Employee Theft v. Embezzlement
Though employee theft and embezzlement are often thought of as one and the same, they are in fact two different offenses.
Embezzlement involves an employee stealing money or property, BUT they were permitted to handle the money or property in the first place. So, they had the authorization to move, handle, transport, and deliver the money or property, but ended up taking such property or money for their personal use instead of following the instructions of their employer. Additionally, embezzlement occurs in more contexts than just the employer/employee relationship.
Tallahassee Criminal Defense Attorney
As you can see, employee theft crimes in Florida are harshly prosecuted and carry severe and long-lasting penalties. These penalties include not only lengthy jail time, probation, and expensive fines, but also losing the trust of friends, family, and future employers. Don’t be haunted by employee theft charges forever. If you or a loved one has been charged with employee theft in Florida, contact an experienced and knowledgeable Tallahassee criminal defense attorney today to discuss your options. Don Pumphrey and the legal team at Pumphrey Law Firm have decades of practice defending Floridians against theft crimes and will aggressively fight for your freedom. Call us today at (850) 681-7777 or send an online message to discuss your case during an open and free consultation with an attorney in our legal team.