In South Carolina, a breach of trust involves a relationship where a person entrusts someone with possession of their money or property, and that person betrays their trust.
What is Breach of Trust?
In South Carolina, in order to convict a person of breach of trust, the state has to prove:
- That the defendant had lawful possession of the victim’s property
- That the property was entrusted to the defendant by the victim or his agent,
- That the property was converted by the defendant for his own use, and
- That the property was taken with the intention of permanently depriving the victim of possession.
In a case where all of the above elements are not present, it could mean that a different criminal charge would be more appropriate. In addition, sometimes the case more appropriately belongs in civil court, not criminal court.
Penalties for Breach of Trust in South Carolina
The penalties for breach of trust in South Carolina are set out by S.C. Code § 16-13-230.
- A breach of trust of property valued at $1,000.00 or less is considered a misdemeanor and the penalty is up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $500.00.
- A breach of trust of property valued at more than $1,000 but less than $5,000 is a felony and the penalty is up to 5 years in prison and/or a fine in an amount determined by the court.
- A breach of trust of property valued between $5,000 or more is also a felony and the penalty is up to 10 years and pay and/or a fine in an amount determined by the court.
If a breach of trust involves property valued at $5,000 or more, and the defendant has had 2 or more prior convictions for a crime defined by statute as a serious offense, or most serious offense, the defendant could be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Embezzlement Charges in South Carolina
In South Carolina, the crime of embezzlement is usually prosecuted under the statute prohibiting breach of trust.. However, there is a separate statute addressing situations where a person is accused of embezzling public funds.
Proving Embezzlement in South Carolina
In order to convict a defendant of embezzlement of public funds, the prosecutor must prove:
1.That the defendant was lawfully in possession of funds belonging to the government or the public,
2.That the defendant was entrusted with the safekeeping, transfer, or disbursement of public funds,
3.That the defendant converted the public funds to his personal use, and
4.That the funds were taken with the intention of permanently depriving the government or the public of possession.
Penalties for Embezzlement in South Carolina
Embezzlement of public funds in South Carolina is a felony and comes with harsh penalties. Pursuant to S.C. Code § 16-13-210, if a defendant is convicted of embezzlement, the defendant could face the following penalties:
- If the amount embezzled is $10,000 or more, then a defendant is subject to a fine set by the court that is proportional to the amount of money embezzled, in addition to imprisonment for a term not of not more than 10 years.
- If the amount that was embezzled is less than $10,000.00, then a defendant is subject to a fine set by the court that is proportional to the amount of money embezzled, in addition to imprisonment for a term not of not more than 5 years.
- If a person is convicted of embezzlement, they are automatically disqualified from holding any office of honor or emolument in South Carolina. However, the General Assembly could remove this prohibition if the person has paid the principal and interest in full.
Defenses against Breach of Trust in South Carolina
A qualified and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney, like the Greenville, South Carolina, attorneys at David R. Price, Jr., P.A., could assert several defenses that the elements of breach of trust are not met. Defenses that can apply in breach of trust cases include the following::
- There wasn’t a trust relationship,
- There wasn’t a conversion,
- There was no intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property,
- That the defendant had the owner’s consent to take and/or sell the property,
- That the property or was given to the defendant as a payment for an existing debt from the alleged victim to the defendant, or
- That the property was given to the defendant as a loan, so it should be treated as a civil matter involving non-payment of a debt.
Call a South Carolina Breach of Trust Lawyer today
If you are charged with breach of trust in South Carolina, then you are dealing with a serious matter, and you shouldn’t try to defend yourself against these charges. You should seek the assistance of a South Carolina attorney who understands breach of trust laws and can aggressively defend you in court. Contact the experienced attorneys at David R. Price, Jr, P.A. today.