What should I do if my employeer is accussing me of a white collar crime?

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What should I do if my employeer is accussing me of a white collar crime?

I am not sure if he has a case or is trying to scare me. He collected my phone, laptop, computer etc. and put me on unpaid admin leave. I do not have a contract with this employeer and was never told that the phone and computer where strictly for business use only. I am not sure of what to do. He has asked me to come and mediate the situation or he is going to send all his “info” to a prosecutor.

Asked on December 1, 2014 under Criminal Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

There is no simple answer as to what you should do, other than this: if you may be accused of a crime, then if there is the *slightest* evidence to support that accusation, or the slightest chance it will be taken seriously, retain a criminal defense attorney, share the facts confidentially (attorney-client privilege) with him or her, and follow his/her advice.

Here is some important information to bear in mind:

1) Your employer cannot force you to talk to them, and furthermore, cannot use the threat of criminal prosecution to make you agree, for example, to pay them money--it is illegal to use the criminal justice system as a threat to collect money.

2) They can, of course, contact the authorities if they believe this was a crime and turn their information over to them. So if this is a  case where you might have done something wrong, but it could either have been a mistake or a deliberate act, they are entitled to talk to you to see if it was a mistake or error, and not a crime--and if it was a civil (non-criminal) matter, they can work out a settlement with you. But again, they can't say "pay us or we'll go to the DA."

3) If the phone and computer were provided by the company, they have the right to have them back, to search them and all contacts/messages sent by them, and to use that information against you.

4) Using company provided systems for personal use may be a misappropriation of company resources, but it should not be a crime if you did not know you could not do that (you would not have had criminal intent); they could try to sue you for the value of the services you misapprorpriated. Of course, if any reasonable person would know that what you did was illegal, then even if you were not specifically told that, it could be a crime.

5) If you talk to your employer, bear in mind that they could use what you tell them against you--this is why you want to speak with an attorney *before* talking to them.

6) Without a contract, you can be placed on leave indefinitely or fired at will.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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