What the Business Owner/Manager Must Know About the Criminal Law

When you have an employee (or family member, friend or acquaintance for that matter) who is charged with a crime, what can/should you know?

Many of us have no idea what it can be like being charged with a crime. In my Simple Tip Number 2 on the topic of “Process” (Yes, go back and read my two part piece on this critical area of the law.), we discussed how Process seems to be more than 50% of what we do in the law. At times, the criminal law is no different on this essential need to understand its processes.

First, the Business Owner must understand the differences between the Federal system and the State system. Secondly, the Business Owner must understand the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor. (Yes, general web sites can provide glimpses of the differences, but each state has so many specifics that so relying on this general information can lead you to perilous misunderstandings.)


Third, the Business Owner must understand and know if and when they can terminate the employee after careful consideration after learning an employee has been charged with a crime. You need to understand your potential liabilities and exposures.


Fourth, the Business Owner must know if and when he can terminate an employee before and after conviction. [As an aside, the term “conviction” can be elusive and a business owner should further understand differences between “conviction”, “withheld judgment”, “deferred prosecution” and other comparable terms. ]

Fifth, in situations where you will retain the employee, the Business Owner must understand what impositions you may both suffer for:

  1. Court appearances;
  2. Probation (if any);
  3. Incarceration (if any)
  4. Resultant impediments from a criminal conviction. (e.g. driver’s license suspensions, professional licenses suspensions, weapons possession prohibitions)

After 31 years in practice, I still find consistency in how the criminally accused often act and re-act. The typical actions and reactions include any combination of the following:

  1. Fear
  2. Embarrassment
  3. I may have done it, but because it is me, I should be immediately forgiven
  4. Can’t the prosecutor just forgive me this time?
  5. Do not worry, I can talk my way out of it. (yea… right)
  6. I did not do it
  7. Because I have a lawyer, the lawyer should be able to “beat the wrap” simply because he/she is a lawyer.
  8. If my lawyer does not “beat the wrap” then it is the lawyer’s fault.

The psychology behind being accused of a crime is way beyond any blog piece a lawyer should prepare.

Answers to these five questions are important for the business owner/manager. A comprehensive elaboration is not suitable to a written blog post. Different business owners need to understand and prioritize the above five topics with individual consultation with… yes, your dreaded lawyer. (A dear friend of mine told me to quit using the term “hated” lawyer.. hmm we shall see which direction I take.)

Do NOT be caught ignorant of the criminal laws and the processes when you have an employee charged with a crime. Please consult your lawyer before it can happen.

NEXT TIME: What the Business Owner/Manager must know about the DUI; Driving Under the Influence laws and processes.