Some crimes and their associated punishments are pretty straightforward. If the prosecuting attorney can prove that the defendant committed a crime, a guilty verdict is likely. Embezzlement is somewhat harder to prove than most crimes, though. The prosecutor has to prove four different factors to have an adequate case.
1. Fiduciary Responsibility
When people are charged with embezzlement, the first thing that must be shown is that they were entrusted with some control over the plaintiff’s money or property. That is, there must be a fiduciary relationship between the two of them. The attorney will often ask questions about job responsibilities to establish this point.
2. Acquisition Method
The second thing the prosecutor must prove is that the defendant acquired the stolen money or property through abusing his or position with the employer. A bank expert witness may be called to help decipher the financial records and point out discrepancies.
3. Theft Proof
The prosecutor must also determine that an actual theft has occurred. That is, he or she must show that the accused actually took ownership of the stolen property. One way to do this is to show unexplained transfers from the corporate account into private accounts for which no legitimate purpose can be proven.
4. Confirmed Intention
Perhaps the hardest element to prove is that the defendant intended to steal the money. Even if the evidence shows that an employee with access ended up with unexplained company funds in his or her personal account, the prosecutor has to prove that the defendant is the one who initiated the transfer. This is a tricky but important factor because it safeguards innocent parties from being framed.
Embezzlement may be hard to prove, but when reputations are on the line, it’s important to get it right. Requiring that four different elements be proven in order to secure a conviction helps minimize the risk of an incorrect guilty verdict.