What is the Difference Between Embezzlement and Theft?

When we hear the word “theft”, we tend to think of men in ski masks who rob a bank. But, when we hear the term “embezzlement”, we think about men in suits sitting behind a desk in a large bank. Why is this? Well, there is some truth to these notions. However, the differences between embezzlement and theft are important. If you’ve been charged with either crime, you’ll want to contact a criminal defense lawyer. You’ll also want to know what the crimes mean, and what kind of penalties you may be facing.

The easiest way to explain the difference between theft and embezzlement has to do with the property you took. If the property was never supposed to be in your possession, it is considered theft. If, however, you were entrusted with the property and used it for your own devious purposes, it’s embezzlement.

Regardless of which crime you’re charged with, you’ll likely be facing potential jail time. In fact, despite the fact that most people think of embezzlement as a white collar crime, it usually carries a longer jail sentence then theft. This usually has to do with the amount of money taken. It can also be a bit easier to prove embezzlement.

If you’ve been charged with either theft or embezzlement, you should contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Houston. They can work with the prosecutor to get your charges reduced. Or, if that isn’t possible, they can fight to get you probation instead of jail time.

What is Embezzlement?

Embezzlement is when you are given permission to handle someone else’s property or money, but decide to convert it for your own personal use. Typically, embezzlement is committed against an employer, business partner, or even a charitable organization.

The key element of embezzlement is that you did have permission to hold the property, but you did not have permission to appropriate it for your own use.

Some common examples of embezzlement include:

  • You take money out of the cash register at your job
  • You take money collected for a school fundraiser and use it for personal reasons
  • You pad your expense account at work
  • You handle payroll and add unworked hours to your timecard
  • You take cash payments from clients and don’t report them to your company

You can be pursued both criminally and civilly for embezzlement. This means that, even if you don’t get convicted in criminal court, the victim can still sue you. If you are convicted, it can be used as evidence in your civil trial as well.

What is Theft?

Theft, also known as larceny, is different from embezzlement. Generally speaking, theft is when you take property that was never entrusted to you. The elements of theft include the following:

  • Taking someone’s money or property without permission
  • Carrying that property away and
  • Intending to keep that property

In order to be convicted of theft, the State has to prove all three (3) of these elements. So, if your Houston criminal defense lawyer can prove you had no intention of keeping the property, you will be acquitted. Or, if they can prove that you had permission to take the property, the charges will have to be dropped.

Some examples of theft include:

  • You see a car on the side of the road with the keys in the ignition. You get in the car, drive off and text your friend that you have a car for sale. Or, you take the car to a garage and sell all of its parts. If you do this, clearly you have no intention of giving the car back.
  • You notice your neighbor has a very high priced dog. You wait until they leave for work and use a spare key to go in and take their dog. You give the dog to your sister for Christmas. Since you’ve given the dog as a gift, it will be hard to prove that you intended on giving the dog back.
  • You spend a week at an Air B and B. You see that they have a laptop computer there for guests to use. When you leave at the end of the week, you take the laptop with you. You clearly had no permission to do this. And, it will be really hard to prove that you intended on giving it back.

Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Houston, Texas

If you’ve been charged with either theft or embezzlement, you’ll be facing some serious jail time. It’s important that you have an experienced criminal defense lawyer by your side. They can negotiate with the prosecutor to get the charges dropped or reduced.

Call Eddington & Worley today and schedule your initial consultation.

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