What Is Embezzlement Under Texas Law?
The word embezzlement broadly refers to a situation where a person wrongfully withholds assets from their rightful owner and converts them for their own personal use. In layperson’s terms, embezzlement is a type of theft, usually involving taking someone else’s money. Although embezzlement is commonly used to describe financial crimes, the word itself is not used in the Texas Penal Code. Instead, embezzlement is prosecuted under the statutes that govern all types of theft.
Perhaps the most commonly prosecuted form of embezzlement involves employees accused of stealing from their employers. To give a hypothetical example, let’s say Thomas is a corporate officer entrusted with managing the books. Using his position, Thomas covertly transfers money from the corporation’s account to a personal account under his control. This would be a classic case of embezzlement. And if and when Thomas’ bosses discover what has happened, they would likely call the police and demand Thomas be charged with criminal theft.
Again, embezzlement is more of a term of art here than a strictly legal description. You can “embezzle” money from anyone in a position of trust, even say a family member. What is important is that the offense tracks the requirements of the Texas theft statute, which defines the crime as the “unlawful appropriation” of property ’with the intent to deprive the owner of property.”
What Are the Penalties for Embezzlement?
Texas defines the severity of a theft-based offense according to the market value of the property that was unlawfully appropriated. In other words, the more you steal, the more jail time you may face. At the lowest end of the spectrum, theft of less than $100 is just a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500 for a first offense.
Embezzlement crosses the line from misdemeanor to felony at the $2,500 level. At this point it is actually a state jail felony, which carries a penalty range of between 180 days and 2 years in prison, as well as a possible fine of up to $10,000. There are also certain types of embezzlement–such as stealing a firearm–that can result in a state-jail felony charge regardless of value. At the highest end, embezzlement of $300,000 or more is a first-degree felony, the highest non-capital charge under Texas criminal law. A conviction here means up to 99 years in prison–effectively a life sentence.
There are also certain situations where an embezzlement-related theft charge may be “enhanced,” which basically means the offense level is bumped to the next-highest charge on the misdemeanor-felony scale. These situations include cases where the embezzlement victim was 65 years or older, a nonprofit organization, or the defendant was a public servant.
Contact a Texas Criminal Defense Attorney Today
As you can see, embezzlement is not a minor matter. Depending on how much money was allegedly involved, a conviction can lead to serious jail time. That is why if you are facing such charges it is in your best interests to work with an experienced Pearland white collar crimes defense lawyer who can represent your interests. Contact Keith B. French Law, PLLC, today if you need to speak with an attorney right away.