In the eyes of the law, you have misappropriated funds when money is the only thing in question. For example, if you are the treasurer of an organization and it is alleged you diverted funds from the organization’s bank account to your own bank account to be used for your benefit, prosecutors would charge you with misappropriation. However, it is important to remember that in these situations, you may also be facing charges of embezzlement, which could further complicate your case. If you are confronting such a situation, always have knowledgeable attorneys handling your case who know how investigators and prosecutors will approach these cases prior to and when the case goes to trial.
Control but not Ownership
For prosecutors to be successful in their efforts to convict you of misappropriation, they must be able to prove in court that you had control of the money, yet did not have ownership of the funds. Simply put, this means it must be shown to the court that whether it was a person or organization that owned the money in question, the party allowed you to have control over the money in some form. Needless to say, there can be many nuances when it comes to determining whether or not a defendant was ever given control over another party’s finances. Therefore, say as little as possible while your case plays out, and let your attorney plan a strategy that will show the prosecutor’s case against you is much too weak to warrant a conviction.
Perhaps most of all in misappropriation cases, the idea of intent is the most important element in determining whether or not you will be found guilty of misappropriation. Legally, intent refers to you knowingly committing an illegal act with another party’s money. If it can be proven whatever actions you allegedly took were simply due to an honest mistake or error, you cannot be convicted of committing a crime. However, since in these cases prosecutors don’t have to show you actually took the money in a physical capacity, they may have more leeway in trying to prove their case against you. Again, there will be many variations as to what transpired leading up to these charges, so always put your trust in an attorney who can work with forensic accountants and other experts who can examine the evidence in your case. In some situations, these individuals can act as expert witnesses and testify on your behalf, which can sometimes swing a jury in your favor.
Conversion and Return
Another important element of misappropriation involves conversion. This can be anything from simply transferring money to your bank account or having prosecutors show you took the money and spent it on your behalf to pay bills, buy various items, and so forth. As for return, even if you took money with plans to return it later, you can still be charged with misappropriation.
Penalties for Misappropriation
If you are convicted of misappropriation, the penalties levied against you by the court will likely be very severe. In most situations, those who were serving as public employees and thus misused public funds are generally punished more strongly than private citizens. As for the types of penalties you could face, this will likely come down to whether the charges against you were misdemeanors or felonies. This can vary by state and be greatly influenced by the circumstances surrounding your case, so having a lawyer on your side who can effectively argue your case in court could play a key role in lessening the penalties against you. While you could face fines of as much as $10,000 and a prison sentence of possibly 10 years, you may be able to avoid this with probation. However, expect to be ordered by the court to pay restitution to your victims if convicted.
Since your freedom, reputation, and financial future may depend on how your case plays out, schedule a consultation today with NJ misappropriation lawyers who will fight hard to prove your innocence and win your case.