Breach of Trust with Fraudulent Intent – Embezzlement Defense Lawyer in Charleston, SC

Breach of trust in SC is a form of larceny or theft – the main difference is that, with a breach of trust, the money or property was obtained lawfully and then misappropriated. With larceny, the money or property is originally taken without permission.

Breach of trust has many names in other jurisdictions, including:

  • Embezzlement;
  • Larceny after trust;
  • Larceny by a bailee; or
  • Larceny by false pretenses.

If there were no offense for breach of trust, there would be no way to charge larceny because the property is originally obtained with the permission of the alleged victim…

What are the Elements of Breach of Trust in SC?

Breach of trust is where a person receives property “in trust” but then fraudulently takes the money for their own use. The state must prove:

  • That there was a fiduciary (trust) relationship;
  • That property held in trust, for the benefit of the alleged victim, was taken by the defendant for their own use; and
  • That there was a fraudulent intent – the defendant intended to defraud the alleged victim.

What are the Penalties for Breach of Trust or Embezzlement in SC?

Breach of trust carries the same penalties as other, graduated property crimes, based on the dollar value of the amount that was alleged to have been stolen:

  • Less than $2000: up to 30 days in jail;
  • More than $2000 but less than $10,000: up to five years in prison; or
  • More than $10,000: up to ten years in prison.

Can I Be Charged with Breach of Trust Just Because I Owe Someone Money?

Police will often charge a person with breach of trust in situations that belong in the civil court.

When a person calls law enforcement with a sad story about how they were ripped off, detectives or officers that respond want to help. They may not understand the elements of breach of trust that have to be proven, or they may not care…

For example, if someone makes a deal with a contractor or a retailer for goods or services, and they are unhappy with the result or they don’t feel that they got the benefit of their bargain, that is not breach of trust with fraudulent intent – it is a civil claim that the alleged victim can bring in a civil lawsuit.

Why charge someone with a crime for a civil matter? Because:

  • The defendant may not have resources to pay a civil judgment;
  • If convicted, the court will force the defendant to pay restitution, allowing the alleged victim to get what they want without filing a lawsuit;
  • The alleged victim may have consulted a personal injury lawyer who told them they cannot collect in a civil suit and they should file a police report instead; or
  • The alleged victim is angry and wants to hurt the defendant.

Can I Sue if I was Wrongfully Arrested for Breach of Trust?

If there was no probable cause for any of the elements of breach of trust, you may have a civil lawsuit against the individual or company who caused you to be arrested and against the police for charging you without probable cause.

Your first step is for your criminal defense lawyer to get the charges dismissed based on the lack of probable cause and without using a pretrial diversion program (which may prevent you from filing suit). Then, your attorney should be able to tell you if you have a civil claim and who is liable.

SC Breach of Trust Criminal Defense Attorney in Charleston

If you have been charged with breach of trust with fraudulent intent in the Charleston, SC area, we will investigate your case, get your charges dismissed if possible, find the best possible resolution through negotiations, or try your case to a jury.

Call Charleston criminal defense lawyer Grant B. Smaldone now at (843) 808-2100 or fill out our online contact form to set up a free consultation to find out how we can help.