Criminal Law/Employee theft

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QUESTION: My employer is conducting an internal investigation for sometime now, which rumors around the company have been flying around about it. although "managment" still thinks its hush hush. They are accusing me of taking money along with others. I took no part in it. Nor has anyone witnessed anyone taking money. The only proof they have are documents that show there's an obvious short in money. Our company has plenty of stores, with no set policies on place, or never gives out employee hand books. There are a number of people in each store that could be responsible for cash handling procedure. Cash drawers are not safe guarded in any way. And 3/7 people in the store are capable of acsess to "cash out procedure" and not nesscessarily the "counter person" that is on the clock is cashing out every single transaction. I've worked for the company for 3 years and seen some Shady things going on all the time. Without actual evidence, of anyone physically putting the money in their pockets, just primarily documents that state loss, and time cards for employes, do they have anything against me ?

ANSWER: Maria,

Unfortunately for you the answer is yes.  If they are accusing you to avoid being terminated the burden of proof to prove otherwise lies with you.  To charge you criminally however the burden of proof to prove lies with them.  My recommendation is to prepare a written statement to management stating the facts as you understand them and swear your innocence.  In the statement agree to be interviewed and to even submit to a polygraph (lie-detector) examination.  I would be reluctant to point the finger at other employees unless you have absolute first-hand knowledge of wrong doing.  In short you want to protect yourself while remaining loyal to your company.  I also recommend that you add any suggestions on how to improve security from the experience you gained in your job capacity to your statement.  Working with your employer to overcome this crisis while maintaining your reputation and integrity should be the goal.  When in doubt, I would consult a practicing employment/criminal defense attorney in your area to help you navigate through this area.  I believe that it is serious enough to warrant it.          

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: I completely agree. But, with so many people having access to these area of question, and me myself being the counter person on the clock, I sometimes do not handle everything at all times, wether I'm on break, running errands for the office, busy with another customer or simply in the bathroom. I've seen a number of people do what they're accusing me of. I generally not worried about being terminated. I do understand when they suspect someone of theft, by all means I agree with termination. I am worrie about criminal charges, things of that nature. Can they prove beyond a resonable doubt, as far as "stated obvious loss"  on paper work, and people that are on the clock (me) that I was the one who physically stole the money. I can definitely cast doubt on this. But is paper work enough to find me or others guilty? How can they definitively say I did it? There are no cameras, or eye witnesses.  Thank you for your help!

Answer
Maria,

I understand your situation much better now, thank you.  The answer is that while there may be no definitive direct physical evidence linking you to a criminal act so the management and law enforcement might try to create a case through circumstantial evidence.  A case like that could take the form of showing that you satisfied the requirements of having had permission/access to handle cash, were in the right location at the right time, had the proper motive, etc. These types of circumstantial evidence are used during a trial to establish guilt or innocence through reasoning. This indirect evidence is the result of combining different and seemingly unrelated facts which the prosecution uses to infer guilt.  Please know that a popular misconception is that circumstantial evidence is less valid or is of less importance than direct evidence. This is only partly true. Direct evidence is popularly, but mistakenly, considered more powerful. Many successful criminal prosecutions rely largely or entirely on circumstantial evidence and is often of higher importance than it's counterpart.  In short, can a case still be brought against you without direct evidence?  Yes.  

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Jeffrey Hauck

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I would welcome the opportunity to answer questions relating to or related to the field of criminal law.

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Criminologist. Professor of Criminal Justice. Licensed Private Detective with expansive clientele base encompassing hundreds of cases. Donates resources and time to the Children's Rescue Network in Orlando, FL.

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Associate of Science; Bachelor of Arts; Master of Science, Doctor of Jurisprudence Degree.

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