Texas Embezzlement Laws

Embezzlement involves stealing another's property or money that has been entrusted to one's care.

Embezzlement is a type 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 you combine stealing with 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 carries the same penalties as theft and is punished according to the value or type of property stolen. Enhanced penalties apply when embezzlement involves a vulnerable victim or an offender acting in a certain capacity (see below). In addition to imprisonment and fines, a judge can order an offender to pay restitution (compensation) to the victim. (Tex. Penal Code §§ 12.21 to 12.35, 31.03 (2020).)

Penalties for Embezzlement

The following penalties apply when embezzlement involves money or property valued at:

  • Less than $100. This offense is a class C misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $500 fine. For a second theft offense, the offender will face a class B misdemeanor.
  • At least $100 but less than $750. This offense is a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine.
  • At least $750 but less than $2,500. This offense is a class A misdemeanor and carries a punishment of up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine. If the offender has two or more theft convictions, the penalty increases to a state jail felony.
  • At least $2,500 but less than $30,000. This offense is a state jail felony, punishable by 180 days to two years' imprisonment and up to a $10,000 fine. An offender who embezzles (regardless of their value) certain livestock, precious metals, or a firearm also faces a state jail felony
  • At least $30,000 but less than $150,000. This offense carries third-degree felony penalties of two to ten years' prison time and up to a $10,000 fine. Embezzlement of cattle, horses, or drugs (regardless of value) will also result in a third-degree felony.
  • At least $150,000 but less than $300,000. This offense carries second-degree felony penalties of two to 20 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
  • $300,000 or more. This offense carries first-degree felony penalties, punishable by five to 99 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.

Enhanced Penalties

If any of the following factors existed at the time of the offense, the penalty for embezzlement increases to the next higher category of offense. So a class C misdemeanor would be raised to a class B misdemeanor, a third-degree felony would increase to a second-degree felony, and so on.

Enhanced penalties apply if:

  • the victim was an elderly individual (65 years or older)
  • the victim was a nonprofit organization
  • the defendant was a public servant, or
  • the defendant was in a contractual relationship with the government (including Medicare providers).

An Important Note on Local Legal Representation

If you've 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 area. An experienced lawyer can also advise you on possible alternatives to spending time behind bars, such as probation, and other consequences of having a criminal record.

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