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What must South Carolina prosecutors prove for an embezzlement charge?

On Behalf of | Jun 4, 2024 | White Collar Crimes |

In the professional realms of accounting and business management, the integrity and trust that clients and employers place in individuals are paramount. However, even the most reputable professionals can find themselves accused of embezzlement, a charge that can tarnish reputations and pose serious threats to one’s freedom. For business executives in the Midlands and Upstate regions of South Carolina, a vigorous and sophisticated defense strategy is critical.

Embezzlement under South Carolina law

Embezzlement is a crime in both state and federal law. In South Carolina, it is legally called “breach of trust with fraudulent intent.” This statute outlines the severity of penalties based on the amount embezzled, ranging from misdemeanor to felony charges. However, for a successful conviction, certain elements must be proven by the prosecution:

  • Existence of a fiduciary relationship: There must be a clear relationship where the alleged victim placed their trust in the defendant.
  • Entrustment of assets: The victim must have entrusted their assets to the defendant, such as access to a bank account.
  • Conversion of assets: It must be demonstrated that the defendant converted these assets for personal use, such as spending the client’s money on themselves.
  • Intent to defraud: The defendant must have had the intention to deprive the victim of their assets permanently.

The burden of proof and potential defenses

To convict the defendant, the prosecution must prove each of these elements to the judge or jury beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecution fails to prove even one of these elements, their case may not succeed. Thus, the defense might focus on creating doubt of one or two of the elements. Common defenses against embezzlement charges include the absence of a fiduciary relationship between the defendant and the alleged victim, or a lack of intent by the defendant to defraud. Demonstrating that the defendant had no intention to permanently deprive the owner of their assets can be a viable defense.

Seeking legal guidance

If you find yourself facing an embezzlement charge, it is imperative to consult with a defense attorney who can assess the specifics of your case and advise on the best course of action. Understanding your legal options and rights is crucial in protecting your professional reputation and personal freedom.