Theft crimes run the gamut from petty shoplifting to the embezzlement of millions of dollars. Because theft is generally a nonviolent crime, many people are unaware of how serious of a charge it can be. Certain theft convictions can land you in jail for years, even decades. If you are convicted of a theft crime at the federal level, the penalties can be even more severe.
Theft becomes a federal offense when it involves public funds or misuse of the national financial system. Many white-collar federal crimes fall under the broader umbrella of theft. Ever since the financial crisis of 2008, these crimes are prosecuted more aggressively than ever in federal court, with judges pursuing stiff sentences to make examples of those convicted.
If you have been charged with a federal theft crime, you need a defense attorney who focuses on federal cases and has a track record of winning acquittals for clients in federal court. Our firm has fought and won many types of federal theft cases and wants to put our experience to work for you.
Examples of Common Federal Theft Crimes
Almost any theft charge can become a federal crime if it involves public money. The following are some of the most common federal theft crimes. Our criminal defense attorneys have successfully fought for clients facing all of these charges and more.
Theft of Public Money, Property or Records
If you have been accused of stealing money, property or records belonging to the U.S. government or any agency thereof, your case will likely be tried in federal rather than in state court.
The penalties for theft of public money are severe. If convicted, you could face as many as 10 years in federal prison plus a fine and restitution.
Misuse of Public Funds
A charge of misuse of public funds typically involves a person entrusted with the safekeeping of money or assets owned by the government. This person often but not always is a government employee. For instance, if a government official gave you a sum of money for safekeeping and then alleged that you deposited it in your own account or otherwise diverted it for personal use, you may be charged with misuse of public funds.
The penalties for this charge may include up to a 10-year prison sentence along with a fine and restitution.
Theft or Embezzlement by Bank Employee
If you work for a national bank and are accused of stealing or embezzling funds that belong to your employer, you might face federal charges, the possible penalties of which include a prison sentence of up to 30 years as well as a fine.
Theft or Bribery Concerning Programs Involving Federal Funds
This charge refers to the misappropriation of public money set aside for a specific program or a specific purpose, such as an infrastructure project or education grant. If you are accused of misusing such money or converting it for personal use, you may face federal charges along with penalties that include a fine and up to 10 years in federal prison.
Racketeering is a catch-all term for any unscrupulous business dealing in which you allegedly profit by deceiving others. If federal funds or the national financial system are involved, it becomes a federal charge. The possible penalties for a racketeering conviction in federal court include fines and prison time. The fine can be up to twice the sum of illegally obtained money, while the prison time is based on the nature of the underlying crime.
Defense Strategies for a Federal Theft Charge
Because the nuances of federal court differ so substantially from those of state court, you need a lawyer who has experience fighting federal cases and can formulate an effective defense strategy on your behalf. Asking for clemency or leniency on the grounds of being a first-time offender doesn’t work in federal court the way it often does in state court. If you want to win your case, your lawyer must come aggressively with facts and evidence that support their chosen defense.
A few possible defense strategies for a federal theft charge include:
- You were unaware your actions were criminal in nature.
- You were acting in good faith.
- Your actions had an immaterial outcome to the entities affected.
- You were acting under duress or coercion.
- You were uninvolved in the theft.