The burden of proving an offense of embezzlement is upon the prosecution. The prosecution must prove embezzlement beyond reasonable doubt[i]. Each element of embezzlement must be proved beyond reasonable doubt[ii].
In order to punish a defendant for embezzlement, the prosecution must prove the following:
- that the defendant was entrusted with a property by the property owner in the course of his/her employment or office;
- that the defendant wrongfully misappropriated the owner’s property for his/her benefit; and
- that the intention of such misappropriation was to deprive the property owner from the property[iii].
A defendant cannot be convicted for embezzlement if both possession and property title have passed to a defendant prior to the alleged conversion[iv]. If the prosecution fails to produce substantial evidence about the guilt of a defendant then the court will acquit a defendant. Evidence that is sufficient to prove the guilt of a defendant largely depends upon the facts of a case and the relevant statute dealing with embezzlement.
A prosecution need not prove financial loss to the property owner. However, in some cases, courts have held that evidence about the financial condition of a defendant at the time of embezzlement is admissible in evidence. For example, the fact that a defendant had spent more money than his/her income after embezzlement can prove fatal for a defendant.
Embezzlement can be proved either by direct evidence or circumstantial evidence. Circumstantial evidence as to the act and intention to commit embezzlement can be considered from the following facts:
- that the defendant was alone in the office when the misappropriation took place;
- that the defendant’s financial condition changed after the alleged misappropriation;
- that the defendant was in illegal possession of the property that is alleged to have been misappropriated; and
- that the personality of the defendant has changed after the misappropriation.
Intention to defraud a property owner can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt either by direct evidence or circumstantial evidence that shows the fraudulent intention of a defendant[v].
[i] Medrano v. Quarterman, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 74374 (S.D. Tex. Sept. 26, 2008)
[ii] State v. Van Tuyl, 132 Wn. App. 750 (Wash. Ct. App. 2006)
[iii] State v. McLean, 209 N.C. 38 (N.C. 1935)
[iv] People v. Robinson, 107 Cal. App. 211 (Cal. App. 1930)
[v] State v. Foster, 17 Del. 289 (Del. Gen. Sess. 1898)