Schemes involving fraud and theft are serious crimes in the State of Florida. Even a conviction on the most minor misdemeanor theft charge can result in jail time and probation, and will prevent you from obtaining many jobs or holding professional licenses. The punishment becomes more severe based on the amount of loss in terms of the value of stolen goods. Incarceration can range from 60 days in jail to 30 years in prison. These crimes and other theft-related offenses are covered under Florida Statutes 812.014 and 817.034.
Your Options During Investigation
Employers are extremely aggressive in preventing and prosecuting employee theft. Internal company investigations often end in criminal prosecutions. You need to know what to do if you are suspected of fraud or theft. Human Resource Departments and Internal Security are trained by and in some cases staffed by former police investigators. As private entities, companies are not governed by the Constitution or State laws as they relate to questioning employees. It is during this initial phase of the investigation that you are most vulnerable.
Before You Talk, Consult a Sarasota Defense Attorney
A common practice by employers is to call the employee to the human resource office and engage in questioning the concerning the allegations. If you are suspected of theft or a related crime, it is in your best interests not to say anything or sign anything without talking to a lawyer. The employer may promise to go easy on you or not call the police if you admit and promise to pay back the stolen money. This is a hollow promise since the employer is not held to the same standards as police. The chances are, your employment will be terminated regardless of whether or not you sign a statement or give a confession.
Be Wary of Cover-Ups
It is also important to remember that many employers have insurance policies that cover against losses resulting from theft. In some cases heavy financial losses due to shoddy accounting practices or poor accounting procedures are covered up with a theft claim. Once the prosecutor files criminal charges, the insurance pays the employer to cover the loss. Be very wary under these circumstances. Employees with poor performance records or who may have filed a sexual discrimination or harassment claim are often targeted in an effort to silence them. These are just a few reasons an employer may wrongfully accuse an employee.
In addition to consulting with your criminal defense attorney, it is extremely important that you document every instance in which you received permission to take and receive funds or property. Provide names of co-workers who might have witnessed the transaction as well as any other supporting evidence. Many times an employer will attempt to intimidate or silence co-workers who might damage their claim. An aggressive attorney can issue the necessary subpoenas and file the appropriate motions to preserve such evidence and protect your rights.
Is It Too Late to Take Action?
If you did not have the opportunity to consult with an experienced Sarasota criminal lawyer before giving a statement to your employer or the police, all is not lost. As I stated above, punishment in theft cases is often governed by the amount of loss. If you do have the ability to pay, in many cases, the prosecutors and/or the court may reduce any jail sentence and impose probation while making restitution a condition.
Contact a Lawyer to Get Started!
I cannot stress enough how important it is to hire an experienced criminal attorney at the earliest stages. Time is not on your side when facing an employer determined to set an example and a prosecutor looking to score a conviction. Do not be afraid. Do not be intimidated. Exercise your right to remain silent and right to an attorney call my office immediately. I will go to bat for you.