Embezzlement: Penalties and Sentencing

Learn about embezzlement in general and find state specific information on the potential penalties.

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Embezzlement is one kind of property theft. It occurs when someone who was entrusted to manage or monitor someone else’s money or property steals all or part of that money or property for the taker's personal gain. The key is that the defendant had legal access to another’s money or property, but not legal ownership of it.  Taking the money or property for the defendant’s own gain is stealing; when combined with the fact that this stealing was also a violation of a special position of trust, you have the unique crime of embezzlement.

Embezzlement can occur in a variety of circumstances. For example, a bank teller has legal access to client money, and is trusted to handle but not take that money. Officers and employees of companies can also embezzle funds belonging to the company, as can family members caring for a relative, professionals like lawyers or board members who handle client or investor money, or anyone in a position of trust with regard to someone else’s money or property.

How is Embezzlement Punished?

A conviction for embezzlement usually results in a fine, jail or prison time, or both. Each state has its own penalty scheme; depending on the value or type of property you have embezzled (and in many states, whether there were any aggravating factors accompanying the crime), the penalties will differ in their severity. 

To skip directly to your state’s punishment ranges, see "Embezzlement Laws by State" below, and click the link to your state. For the federal crime, see Federal Embezzlement Laws & Penalties

Property value

Most states punish embezzlement convictions according to the value of the money or property stolen. Most commonly, a state will list monetary value ranges (for example “property worth less than $500”) and corresponding fines and jail or prison sentences for each range.

Property type

Some states also list types of property that (regardless of value) incur specific fines and prison terms. For example, because it is a precursor ingredient in making methamphetamine, anhydrous ammonia is an example of a type of property that many states specifically enumerate for harsh penalties, regardless of the amount or value stolen. Other types of property often include firearms, livestock, property stolen during an emergency or natural disaster, or public records.

Restitution

Many states require defendants to pay restitution to their victim(s). This usually involves repaying the victim for the monetary value of the money or property embezzled. When applicable, restitution is most often in addition to the applicable fines and prison time.

Aggravating factors

Many states impose harsher penalties when the defendant embezzled from a specially protected class of victims (such as elderly or disabled adults), or when the defendant had a heightened level of trust with the victim (such as when the defendant is a public servant, or bank or insurance company employee).

Arizona law, for example, specifies that a person caring for a “vulnerable adult" (someone elderly or disabled) is in a special position of trust over and above the normal level of trust assumed to exist when the property owner is not considered vulnerable. Because of this heightened position of trust, Arizona law seeks to protect vulnerable adults by deeming any transfer of money or property to the care taker without adequate consideration (paying a fair market value in money or services) as giving rise to an inference that the care taker intended to deprive the vulnerable adult of the money or property. This is in contrast to normal transfer situations (that is, with non-vulnerable adults), where a transfer without payment of adequate consideration may help support the case against the defendant, but does not automatically give rise to the inference that the defendant intended to embezzle. This extra layer of protection makes it easier for the prosecutor to prove that the defendant embezzled from the vulnerable adult.

Alabama provides another example of the way aggravating factors can impose harsher consequences than the otherwise applicable fines or prison time. In Alabama and several other states, a public servant convicted of embezzling public funds not only faces fines and imprisonment, but is permanently ineligible to be elected to the state legislature or hold any public office. Again, the underlying policy involves a special position of trust, and heightened punishment for violating that trust.

Many states have similar laws protecting special classes of victims, or imposing harsher penalties on special classes of defendants. To learn more about how your state punishes crimes that involve aggravating factors, see “Embezzlement Laws by State” below, and click the link to your state.

Common Scheme or Plan of Embezzlement

Many states allow the judge to aggregate the total worth of the money or property stolen when a defendant embezzles as part of a common plan or scheme. Some states allow the judge to aggregate the value over a specific time period (such as 12 months), while other states do not impose any time period --for example, when the embezzlement involved only one victim.

In these states, the defendant will be charged and sentenced depending on the total worth of the money or property stolen. This allows the prosecutor to charge the defendant with one embezzlement crime (and the judge to impose one sentence), rather than bring to trial many small embezzlement crimes. This is helpful when the amounts embezzled were very small, and occurred over a long period of time. For example, suppose a defendant stole ten dollars each day from his employer’s cash register. The total amount embezzled would add up over a year or more, but it would be unreasonable to try the defendant for 365 or more small embezzlement crimes of ten dollars each.

Additional Information

For more information on embezzlement, follow the links below.

Embezzlement Laws by State

State

Penalties At-A-Glance

Alabama

Theft of property in the third degree. Money or property with a value up to and including $500. Penalties include a fine of up to $2,000, up to one year in jail.
Theft of property in the second degree. Money or property with a value greater than $250, but not more than $2,500. Penalties include a fine of up to $15,000, between one and ten years in prison, or both.
Theft of property in the first degree. Money or property exceeding $2,500. Penalties include a fine of up to $30,000, between two and 20 years in prison, or both.

Alaska

Embezzlement of property that is worth less than $50 is theft in the fourth degree, a Class B misdemeanor. Punishment for a Class B misdemeanor includes up to 90 days in jail and a fine of not more than $2,000. A person who embezzles property worth $500 to $25,000 has committed theft in the second degree, a Class C felony. A Class C felony carries a prison sentence of up to five years.

Arizona

Less than $1,000 in value. As a class 1 misdemeanor, penalties include a fine of up to $2,500, up to six months in jail, or both.
$1,000 or more, but less than $2,500 in value, theft of a firearm, or theft of an animal taken for the purpose of animal fighting. As a class 6 felony, penalties include up to one year in jail.
$2,000 or more, but less than $3,000 in value. As a class 5 felony, penalties include up to one-and-a -half years in jail.

Arkansas

Class A misdemeanor. The value of the property is $1,000 or less. Penalties include a fine of up to $1,000, up to one year in jail, or both.
Class D felony. The value of the property is more than $1,000 but not more than $5,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, up to six years in prison, or both.
Class C felony. The value of the property is more than $5,000 but less than $25,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, between three and ten years in prison, or both.
Class B felony. The value of the property is $25,000 or more. Penalties include a fine of up to $15,000, between five and 20 years in prison, or both.

California

Embezzlement of property worth less than $950 is a misdemeanor, subjecting a defendant to a possible jail sentence of six months or less, and a fine of up to $1,000.
Embezzlement of property, money, or services, and many enumerated items, worth more than $950 is grand theft. A conviction carries a jail sentence of up to one year (a misdemeanor). But state prison time of 16 months, 2, or 3 years is also possible for felony grand theft.

Colorado

Less than $500. The defendant will be charged with a class 2 misdemeanor. Penalties include a fine of between $250 and $1,000, between three and six months in jail, or both.
$500 or more, but less than $1,000. The defendant will be charged with a class 1 misdemeanor. Penalties include a fine of between $500 and $5,000, between six months in jail and 18 months in prison, or both.
$1,000 or more, but less than $20,000. The defendant will be charged with a class 4 felony. Penalties include a fine of between $2,000 and $500,000, between two and six years in prison (and up to three years of parole), or both.
$20,000 or more. The defendant will be charged with a class 3 felony. Penalties include a fine of between $3,000 and $750,000, between four and 12 years in prison (and up to five years of parole), or both.

Connecticut

Class C misdemeanor. The value of the property is $500 or less.
Class B misdemeanor. The value of the property is $500 or more, but less than $1,000.
Class A misdemeanor. The value of the property is $1,000 or more, but less than $2,000.
Class D felony. The value of the property is more than $2,000 but less than $10,000.
Class C felony. The value of the property is more than $10,000 but less than $20,000.
Class B felony. The value of the property is more than $20,000.

Delaware

Property with value less than $1,500. The defendant will be charged with a class A misdemeanor.
$1,500 or more, but less than $50,000. The defendant will be charged with a class G felony.
$50,000 or more, but less than $100,000. The defendant will be charged with a class E felony.
$100,000 or more. The defendant will be charged with a class C felony.

District of Columbia

Theft in the second degree. The value of the property is less than $1,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $1,000, up to 180 days in jail, or both.
Theft in the first degree. The value of the property is $1,000 or more. Penalties include a fine of up to $5,000, up to ten years in prison, or both.

Florida

In Florida, embezzlement can be classified as either first, second or third degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. Lesser offences include first and second degree misdemeanor embezzlement, which is punishable by fines up to $1,000 and one year in jail.

Georgia

Value is $500 or less. Penalties include a fine of up to $1,000, up to one year in jail, or both.
Value is more than $500. The judge has the discretion to impose a prison sentence of between one and ten years.

Hawaii

Theft in the first degree. The embezzled property or money is worth more than $20,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $25,000, up to ten years in prison, or both.
Theft in the second degree. The embezzled property or money is worth more than $300, but not more than $20,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, up to five years in prison, or both.
Theft in the third degree. The embezzled property or money is worth more than $100, but not more than $300. Penalties include a fine of up to $2,000, up to one year in jail, or both.

Idaho

A defendant who embezzles public money or property, or otherwise uses a position as a public servant to embezzle money or property related to his duties in that role, is guilty of a felony. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, at least one (and up to 20) years in prison, or both.

Illinois

Money or property is worth $500 or less. If convicted, the defendant will face a fine of up to $2,500, up to one year in jail, or both.
More than $500, but not more than $10,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $25,000, between two and five years in jail, or both.
More than $10,000 but not more than $100,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $25,000, between three and seven years in jail, or both.

Indiana

Less than $100,000. In addition to paying the value of the money or property back to the victim, the defendant will face a fine of up to $10,000, between six months in jail and 18 months in prison, or both.
$100,000 or more. In addition to paying the value of the money or property back to the victim, the defendant will face a fine of up to $10,000, between two and eight years in prison, or both.

Iowa

Money or property worth $200 or less. Penalties include a fine of between $50 and $500, up to 30 days in jail, or both.
More than $200, but not more than $500. Penalties include a fine between $250 and $1,500, up to one year in jail, or both.
More than $500, but not more than $1,000. Penalties include a fine of between $500 and $5,000, up to two years in prison, or both.

Kansas

Less than $1,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $2,500, up to one year in jail, or both.
$1,000 or more, but less than $25,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $100,000, six months in jail, or both.

Kentucky

Money or property worth less than $500. Penalties include a fine of up to $500, between 90 days and one year in jail, or both.
$500 or more, but less than $10,000. Penalties include a fine of between $1,000 and $10,000; at least one year (and up to five years) in prison; or both.
$10,000 or more. Penalties include a fine of between $1,000 and $10,000; at least five (and up to ten) years in prison; or both.

Louisiana

Money or property worth less than $500. Penalties include a fine of up to $1,000, up to six months year in jail, or both.
$500 or more, but less than $1,500. Penalties include a fine of up to $2,000, up to five years in prison; or both.
$1,500 or more. Penalties include a fine of up to $3,000, up to ten years in prison, or both.

Maine

Money or property worth less than $500. Penalties include a fine of up to $1,000, up to one year in jail, or both.
$500 or more, but less than $1,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $2,000, between one and three years in prison; or both.
$1,000 or more, but less than $10,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $5,000, between three and five years in prison, or both.

Maryland

In addition to restitution (paying the victim back for the amount or value of the embezzled property), penalties for embezzlement in Maryland include a fine of between $50 and $100, and at least one (and up to five) years in prison.

Massachusetts

Money or property worth $250 or less. For a first offense, penalties include a fine of between $50 and $600, between six months in jail and two and a half years in prison, or both.
$250 or more, or firearms (regardless of value). Penalties include a fine of up to $25,000, up to five years in prison, or both.

Michigan

Money or property worth less than $200. Penalties include a fine of up to $500, or up to three times the value of the embezzled property; up to 93 days in jail; or both.
$200 or more, but less than $1,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $2,000, or three times the amount embezzled; up to one year in jail, or both.
$1,000 or more, but less than $20,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, or three times the amount embezzled (whichever is greater); up to five years in prison, or both.

Minnesota

Money or property worth less than $500. Penalties include a fine of up to $1,000, up to 90 days in jail; or both.
More than $500, but not more than $1,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $3,000, up to one year in jail, or both.
More than $1,000, but not more than $5,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, up to five years in prison, or both.

Mississippi

Money or property worth less than $500. Penalties include a fine of up to $1,000, up to six months in jail, or both.
$500 or more. Penalties include a fine of up to $25,000, up to ten years in prison, or both.

Missouri

Less than $500. Penalties include a fine of up to $1,000, up to one year in jail, or both.
$500 or more, but less than $25,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $5,000, or up to double the value of the money or property embezzled (not to exceed $20,000); and up to seven years in prison.
$25,000 or more. Penalties include a fine of up to double the value of the money or property embezzled (not to exceed $20,000); and at least five (and up to up to 15) years in prison.

Montana

Money or property worth $1,500 or less. Penalties include a fine of up to $1,500, up to six months in jail, or both.
More than $1,500, but not more than $10,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $50,000, up to ten years in prison, or both.
More than $10,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $50,000, at least one year (and up to ten years) in prison, or both.

Nebraska

Money or property worth $200 or less. Penalties include a fine of up to $1,000, up to six months in jail, or both.
More than $200, less than $500. Penalties include a fine of up to $1,000, up to one year in prison, or both.
$500 or more, but not more than $1,500. Penalties include a $10,000 fine, up to five years in prison, or both.
More than $1,500. Penalties include a $25,000 fine, at least one year (and up to 20 years) in prison, or both.

Nevada

Money or property worth less than $650. Penalties include a fine of up to $1,000, up to six months in jail, or both.
$650 or more, but less than $3,500. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, at least one year (and up to five years) in prison, or both.
$3,500 or more. Penalties include fine of up to $10,000, at least one year (and up to ten years) in prison, or both.

New Hampshire

Money or property worth $1,000 or less. Penalties include a fine of up to $2,000 (or up to double the amount embezzled, whichever is more); up to one year in jail; or both.
More than $1,000, but not more than $1,500. This category also includes property that is embezzled with the intent to resell, even if the property is worth less than $1,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $4,000 (or up to double the amount embezzled, whichever is more); up to seven years in prison, or both.
More than $1,500. Also includes stolen firearms (regardless of value). Penalties include a fine of up to $4,000 (or up to double the amount embezzled, whichever is more); up to 15 years in prison, or both.

New Jersey

Money or property worth $75,000 or more. Penalties include any or all of the following: restitution of the amount embezzled to the victim; a fine of up to $150,000, and between five and ten years in prison.
$500 or more, but less than $75,000. Penalties include: restitution; a fine of up to $15,000, and between three and five years in prison.
$200 or more, but not more than $500. Penalties include any or all of the following: restitution; a fine of up to $10,000; and up to 18 months in prison.
Less than $200. Penalties include restitution; a fine of up to $1,000; or both.

New Mexico

Money or property worth $250 or less. Penalties include a fine of up to $500, up to six months in jail, or both.
More than $250, but not more than $500. Penalties include a fine of up to $1,000, up to one year in jail, or both.
More than $500, but not more than $2,500. Penalties include a fine of up to $5,000, up to 18 months in prison, or both.
More than $2,500, but not more than $20,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $5,000, up to three years in prison, or both.
More than $20,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, up to nine years in prison, or both.

New York

Money or property worth $1,000 or less. Penalties include a fine of up to $1,000; up to one year in jail, or both.
More than $1,000, but not more than $3,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $5,000; up to four years in prison, or both.
More than $3,000, but not more than $50,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $5,000; up to seven years in prison, or both.
More than $50,000, but not more than $100,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $15,000; up to 15 years in prison, or both.
More than $100,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $30,000; up to 25 years in prison, or both.

North Carolina

In North Carolina, embezzlement is punished according to the position the defendant held in relation to the victim, and the value or type of property stolen.

North Dakota

Money or property worth more than $10,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, up to ten years in prison, or both.
More than $500, but not more than $10,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $5,000, up to five years in prison, or both.
More than $250, but not more than $500. Penalties include a fine of up to $2,000, up to one year in jail, or both.
$250 or less. Penalties include a fine of up to $1,000, up to 30 days in jail, or both.

Ohio

Money or property worth less than $1,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $1,000, up to 180 days in jail, or both.
$1,000 or more, but less than $7,500. Penalties include a fine of up to $2,000, at least six months (and up to one year) in jail, or both.
$7,500 or more, but less than $150,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $5,000, at least six months in jail (and up to 18 months in prison), or both.
$150,000 or more, but less than $750,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, at least nine months in jail (and up to 36 months in prison), or both.

Oklahoma

Money or property worth less than $500. Penalties include a fine of up to $1,000, up to one year in jail, or both.
$500 or more, but less than $1,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $5,000, up to one year in jail, and restitution (repaying the value of the money or property stolen) to the victim.
$1,000 or more, but less than $25,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $5,000, up to five years in prison, and restitution.

Oregon

Money or property worth less than $100. Penalties include a fine of up to $1,250, up to 30 days in jail, or both.
$100 or more, but less than $1,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $6,250, up to one year in jail, or both.
1,000 or more. Penalties include a fine of up to $125,000, up to five years in prison, or both.

Pennsylvania

Property worth more than $2,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $15,000, up to seven years in prison, or both.
$200 or more, but not more than $2,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, up to five years in prison, or both.
$50 or more, but less than $200. Penalties include a fine of up to $5,000, up to two years in prison, or both.
Less than $50. Penalties include a fine of up to $2,500, up to one year in jail, or both.

Rhode Island

$100 or more. Penalties include a fine of up to $50,000, or up to three times the value of the money or property embezzled (whichever is more); up to 20 years in prison; or both.
Less than $100. Penalties include a fine of up to $1,000, up to one year in jail, or both.

South Carolina

Money or property worth $10,000 or more. Penalties include a fine in an amount determined by the judge, up to ten years in prison, or both.
More than $2,000, but less than $10,000. Penalties include a fine in an amount determined by the judge, up to five years in prison; or both.
$2,000 or less. Penalties include a fine of up to $1,000, up to 30 days in jail, or both.

South Dakota

Money or property worth $1,000 or more. Penalties include a fine or up to $30,000, up to 15 years in prison, or both.
More than $400, but less than $1,000. Penalties include a fine $2,000, up to one year in prison; or both.
$400 or less. Penalties include a fine of up to $500, up to 30 days in jail, or both.

Tennessee

Money or property worth $60,000 or more. Penalties include a fine of up to $25,000, at least eight (and up to 30) years in prison, or both.
$10,000 or more, but less than $60,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, at least three (and up to 15) years in prison, or both.
$1,000 or more, but less than $10,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $5,000, at least two (and up to 12) years in prison, or both.
$500 or more, but less than $1,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $3,000, at least one (and up to six) years in prison, or both.
$500 or less. Penalties include a fine of up to $2,500, up to one year in jail, or both.

Texas

Money or property worth less than $50. Penalties include a fine of up to $500.
$50 or more, but less than $500. Also includes stealing a driver’s license or personal identification card issued by any U.S. state. Penalties include a fine of up to $2,000, up to 180 days in jail, or both.
$500 or more, but less than $1,500. Penalties include a fine of up to $4,000, up to one year in jail, or both.
$1,500 or more, but less than $20,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, at least 180 days in jail (and up to two years in prison), or both.

Utah

Money or property worth less than $500. Penalties include a fine of up to $1,000, up to six months in jail, or both.
$500 or more, but less than $1,500. Penalties include a fine of up to $2,500, up to one year in jail, or both.
$1,500 or more, but less than $5,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $5,000, up to five years in prison, or both.
$5,000 or more. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, at least one (and up to 15) years in prison, or both.

Vermont

In Vermont, embezzlement is punished with a fine of up to $500, up to ten years in prison, or both.

Virginia

Money or property worth less than $200. Penalties include a fine of up to $2,500, up to one year in jail, or both.
$200 or more, and firearms (regardless of value). The judge may treat this type of larceny as above; or may sentence the defendant to at least one (and up to 20) years in prison.

Washington

Money or property worth more than $5,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $20,000, up to ten years in prison, or both.
More than $750, but not more than $5,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, up to five years in prison, or both.
Less than $750. Penalties include a fine of up to $5,000, up to one year in jail, or both.

West Virginia

Money or property worth $1,000 or more. Penalties include at least one (and up to ten) years in prison. However, the judge has the discretion to treat the conviction as below.
Less than $1,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $2,500, up to one year in jail, or both.

Wisconsin

Money or property worth less than $2,500. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, up to nine months in jail, or both.
More than $2,500, but less than $5,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, up to three and a half years in prison, or both.

Wyoming

Money or property worth less than $1,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $750, up to six months in jail, or both.
More than $1,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, up to ten years in prison, or both.

An Important Note on Local Legal Representation

If you have been charged with a property theft or embezzlement-related offense, consult an experienced criminal defense attorney. While the penalties and consequences of property theft charges are governed by statutory law, only a local criminal defense attorney can tell you how strong the case against you appears to be, and how cases like yours tend to be handled by prosecutors and judges in your courthouse. An experienced lawyer can also advise you as to possible alternatives to criminal punishment, such as paying back the money involved, along with court fees and other costs, or some other alternative that your judge might consider.

by: , Contributing Author

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