In part 1 of the article, we began our examination of Embezzlement cases. We looked at a few typical scenarios that usually precede, if not announce the coming of an Embezzlement charge, and some of the emotional and psychological elements that are typically present.
In this 2nd part, we'll pick up by reviewing some of the more, practical, real-life legal considerations and steps one can expect as an Embezzlement case proceeds through the Court system.
Most Embezzlement cases are Felonies. If they weren't already scared enough, when the person hears about the potential to go to Prison for a certain number of years, they freak out. For whatever reason, the vast majority of Embezzlement cases I see involve amounts of money well over $10,000, and many involve amounts involving hundreds of thousands of dollars.
When they think about someone who steals a wallet stuffed with hundreds of dollars being thrown in Jail, a person facing an Embezzlement charge, where the amounts involved are umpteen times higher, rather naturally wonders they're prison-bound.
Then I'm hired, and the first thing I tell the Client is that there won't be any Prison. Most of the time, these cases can be worked out with no Jail. This, I explain, is what you're paying for.
As with all Felonies, Embezzlement cases follow a certain protocol. There is an Arraignment, a Preliminary Examination, a Circuit Court Arraignment and First Conference, followed by a Pre-Trial conference. Sometimes, multiple Pre-Trial conferences are held.
Eventually, unless there is some way to beat the case, a Plea-bargain is produced. This will have several benefits to the Client beyond just sounding good. A reduced charge can change the Sentencing outcome, and can be largely responsible for avoiding any kind of Jail. Beyond that, it does, to some extent, soften the impact to the person's Criminal Record.
And that's a huge component of these cases. There is no way to tread gently around this issue. An Embezzlement conviction will make getting a new job more difficult. It might, and probably will mean NOT getting any number of jobs. This is why the Plea-bargaining process is so important. From the many cases I've handled, and as much as I get along with the various Prosecutors with whom I work, all of them, to a person, feels a responsibility to not only get the "victim" in this case paid back as much and as quickly as possible, but to protect any subsequent employers who go through the trouble of checking a person's Criminal Record.
Paying back the victim is also a huge part of these cases. As with so many things, money talks. Whatever else, a person who has the resources to make complete, or at least substantial repayment of the money or value taken will find themselves in a much better position in the case than those with a hard-luck story.
This issue of repayment, called "Restitution," is not only centrally important to the Prosecutor, but the person facing the charges (the Defendant), as well. I have noted in other articles that as soon as someone feels genuinely afraid of being locked up, they often start promising any and everything they can think of to avoid that. In Embezzlement cases, that often means promising repayment amounts that are simply not feasible. My job, as the Attorney for someone dealing with an Embezzlement charge, is to make sure I work out a plan that nets them the most favorable outcome possible while leaving enough money to pay ordinary living expenses. This can sometimes involve doing a pretty comprehensive budget analysis. In other words, I have to protect the Client from promising too much. This avoids having the person brought back before the Judge later to face even more trouble for not paying the previously agreed amount. It really requires a bit of a balancing act to work out the Restitution issue for each particular Client.
The point of that balancing act is to not only protect the Client from biting off more than they can chew, but to have something to work with in order to entice the Prosecutor into a favorable agreement.
By Law, a person who has no other convictions of any kind upon their Record can come back to Court, 5 years later, and seek to have this conviction "expunged." This is sometimes seen as both a gift to them, and an incentive to have them make sure that they pay the Restitution within that period, or even sooner.
In large-dollar cases, however, there's no real planning to pay the whole thing back in a few years, or even ever. Sometimes, too much money is gone for a working person to ever repay, and the "victim" just has to sustain some of the loss. Sentence agreements are often the most important part of working out these cases. Recently, I was in the Macomb County Circuit Court on one such case, and the Judge rather matter-of-factly informed the victim that his company would be lucky to ever receive even ¼ of the several hundred thousand dollars taken.
As much as anything else, the County in which a case arises is important. Wayne and Macomb Counties are far better places to face an Embezzlement charge than Oakland County, although that can be said for pretty much any and every Criminal charge imaginable.
So how does a person facing an Embezzlement charge find the right Lawyer?
First, stay local. For a Detroit-area case, stick with a Lawyer in the Tri-County area. My Practice is limited to the Tri-County area. This means I won't take a case outside of Macomb, Oakland or Wayne County. My belief is that any case outside of the Metro-Detroit area is best served by hiring a Lawyer local to the Court handling it.
Second, call around. Use the computer, and read what kind of articles various Lawyers have written explaining things in general, and this kind of case in particular. I'd avoid anyone who, on the one hand, points out how serious the potential consequences of an Embezzlement case is, and, on the other hand, suggests that you should "call now" because they have the expertise, or whatever, to handle such a case. Scare tactics are not the hallmarks of better Representation.
Remember that price is an issue. While no one should get "soaked" for an excessive Fee, putting your future in the hands of the low bidder is an equally bad decision.
And while I kind of cringe at mentioning this, the age and experience of your Lawyer is an important component of the hiring decision. I think I was a great young Lawyer 20 years ago, but I'd be nuts to deny that over 2 decades of experience handling cases in the Macomb, Oakland and Wayne County Court systems hasn't given me an edge. That said, I have to chuckle as I imagine myself writing this same article again 40 years from now and telling the reader that 90 is the new 40, and that youth isn't all its cracked up to be. Still, 20 years in the pros mean that you're prepared for every scenario, and have the experience to back it up.
An Embezzlement charge is scary, and it is serious business. However, if properly handled, it can be made manageable, and, in most cases, any kind of Jail can be avoided.