Although the terms “embezzlement,” “misappropriation of funds,” and “larceny,” are often used interchangeably, in fact, in some states, they are very different crimes.
Embezzlement can be the charge for misappropriation of funds when the funds involved have been lawfully entrusted to the embezzler—entrusted to, but the perpetrator does not have legal ownership of the funds.
When the funds were not lawfully entrusted to the perpetrator, but there was access, it is more likely to be called misappropriation of funds. In the state of Mississippi, however, embezzlement and misappropriation of funds are essentially considered the same crime, except that misappropriation of funds involves money only, while embezzlement could involve money and/or property.
When one person’s property is transferred by another person to use as their own, and that person holds a position of trust, then misappropriation of funds could be charged. The person taking the property or money could be an employee, a volunteer, a family member, or anyone who has been placed in a position of responsibility. An employee who is in charge of making weekly bank deposits, who diverts some of that money to themselves could be charged with misappropriation of funds. If a family member takes money from another family member they are caring for, that act could be charged as misappropriation of funds.
If the treasurer of the Girl Scouts takes money from the petty cash fund to pay their own electric bill, misappropriation of funds could be charged. The person who commits the act of embezzlement or misappropriation of funds generally does so for personal gain, and could face serious penalties in the state of Mississippi. The amount of money taken by the perpetrator will have a direct correlation on that person’s jail sentence and other penalties. Depending on the circumstances, as well as the value of the money or property taken, the crime could be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. For example:
- If the money or property taken is worth less than $500, the crime of misappropriation of funds will be charged as a misdemeanor. If convicted, the perpetrator could face up to $1,000 in fines, and up to six months in county jail.
- If the money or property taken is worth more than $500, the perpetrator may face felony charges, and could receive a fine up to $25,000, and a sentence of up to ten years in prison, if convicted.
- If a person who manages a trust for another is convicted of embezzlement of trust property, he or she could be fined up to $1,000, and could face a jail sentence up to one year.
The Statutes of Limitations in Mississippi for Misappropriation of Funds Charges
Most crimes committed in the state of Mississippi have a two-year statute of limitations. This means charges must be brought within two years from the time the alleged crime occurred. The crime of misappropriation of funds or embezzlement, however, is exempt from any statute of limitations. This means the state of Mississippi considers these crimes to be important enough not to limit prosecution by time.
Elements of the Crime of Misappropriation of Funds
If you are charged with misappropriation of funds in the state of Mississippi, the prosecutor must clearly show the following:
- You had control and possession of the funds, but not ownership, meaning a person, organization, group or employer gave you control over the funds but they were not yours to use for yourself.
- The prosecutor must show you knowingly misappropriated the funds, meaning you had intent, and it was not done because of a mistake or error.
- Conversion must occur, meaning you not only took the funds, but used it for purposes of your own. This does not necessarily mean you bought something with the money, just that you transferred the funds to your bank account, or failed to return it when the owner noticed its absence.
- If you misappropriated funds, intending to return them later, you can still be found guilty of the crime. As an example, if you are unable to make your car payment this month, so you “borrow” money from the petty cash fund at work, intending to pay it back as soon as you are paid, this distinction will make no difference in your defense.
Misappropriation of funds is extremely serious, and can completely derail your future. Even if you don’t end up spending time in jail or prison, you will likely have to make restitution, plus the conviction will go on your record. This could make it extremely difficult to obtain employment in the future, or a professional degree or certification you have spent years working for. It is to your advantage to call an experienced Mississippi criminal defense attorney immediately if you are charged with misappropriation of funds or embezzlement.
Contact Our Jackson Criminal Defense Lawyers
If you have been charged with any white collar crime in Jackson, Hattiesburg, Meridian, or anywhere in the State of Mississippi, the best thing you can do is to contact an experienced Mississippi criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. These are serious charges and must be fought aggressively. Contact Coxwell & Associates today at (601) 265-7766.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.