Embezzlement is a kind of property theft. It occurs when a defendant, who was entrusted to manage or monitor someone else’s money or property, steals all or part of that money or property for the defendant’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.
For more information about embezzlement, see Embezzlement: Penalties and Sentences.
How is Embezzlement Punished in Texas?
In Texas, embezzlement is punished according to the value or type of property stolen. (Texas Stat. & Code Ann. § 31.03.)
- 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. Also includes livestock with an aggregate value of less than $20,000; firearms (regardless of value); official ballots or carrier envelope for an election; or metal including aluminum, bronze, copper, or brass, worth 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.
- $20,000 or more, but less than $100,000. Also includes livestock with an aggregate value of less than $100,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, at least one (and up to 10) years in prison, or both.
- $100,000 or more, but less than $200,000. Also includes automatic teller machines or components. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, at least two (and up to 20) years in prison, or both.
- $200,000 or more. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, at least five (and up to 99) years in prison, or both.
If any aggravating factor existed at the time of the offense (as described below), the embezzlement conviction will be punished as described above for the next higher category of offense. So, for example, if the defendant stole $50, but the victim was an elderly individual, the next higher penalty would apply. In that case, the punishment would include a fine of up to $2,000, up to 180 days in jail, or both (see above). (Texas Stat. & Code Ann. § 31.03(f).) Aggravating factors include:
- the victim was an elderly individual (65 years or older)
- the victim was a nonprofit organizations
- the defendant was a public servant, and
- the defendant was in a contractual relationship with the government.
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.