Embezzlement: Texas Laws, Definitions, and Defenses

Texas Embezzlement Laws

Financial crimes in Texas are a unique category of illegal offenses. While many actions are criminalized because they threaten the public safely or physically endanger other people, financial crimes are violations that threaten the economic security of others.

Financial crimes can occur in a variety of settings, from small local banks to huge business enterprises. Embezzlement is one of the most common types of financial crimes. It occurs when a person who is employed by a business and is entrusted with money uses fraud or deceit to misappropriate the money. A person who is convicted of embezzlement can face years in prison and huge fines.


Texas Embezzlement Laws

Under Texas law, it is a crime to misuse, steal or secretly conceal any portion of a company’s assets for the purpose of personal financial gain. This means that any member of a company or organization, from a national bank to a youth softball team, can be charged with embezzlement if they use funds inappropriately to benefit themselves.

It’s important to understand that embezzlement is a type of theft. The fact that this crime occurs in a business setting and not in a robbery or burglary does not make it any less serious. In fact, because many cases of embezzlement often involve relatively large sums of money, the penalties can be just as severe as the penalties for a robbery. In some cases, they may be even more severe.

Embezzlement cases in Texas, like all theft crimes in this state, are assigned a penalty upon conviction that is directly based on the amount of money involved in the crime. Very small amounts of embezzled money will lead to relatively minor penalties but the consequences can increase dramatically as the amount of money involved in a particular case increases.

Legal Examples

Embezzlement can occur in nearly any situation involving an organization that deals with money, whether it is cash or digital transactions.

For example, Deborah works at a sporting goods store. Every Friday, she takes the cash from the register and deposits in the local bank branch after tallying up a deposit sheet. One day, she begins filling in inaccurate totals and keeping some of the cash for herself on the way to the bank. She tells her manager that she suspects another employee of theft to keep him from discovering her actions. Deborah has committed embezzlement and may be arrested and charged with a crime if she is found out. The prosecution can investigate the store’s records to find out exactly how much money she took to determine which level of the offense that she should be charged with.

In another example, Casey volunteers for her church. She collects the money gathered in the offering plate and puts it into the church’s safe every Sunday. She runs into some financial trouble and can’t pay her bills. She begins sneaking out with some of the money each week and tells herself that she will pay it back when her situation improves. Even though she was a volunteer for a non-profit organization and was not using the stolen money for criminal purposes, she can still be charged with and convicted of embezzlement.

Legal Penalties

As with all theft crimes, the penalties for embezzlement are directly based on the amount of money which was stolen in a particular case.

Theft of less than $50 is a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by:

  • A fine of up to $500

Theft of $50 to $499 is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by:

  • Up to 180 days in county jail
  • A fine of up to $2000

Theft of $500 to $1,499 is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by:

  • Up to one year in county jail
  • A fine of up to $4000

Theft of $1500 to $19,999 is a state jail felony, punishable by:

  • Up to two years in state jail
  • A fine of up to $10,000

Theft of $20,000 to $99,999 is a third degree felony, punishable by:

  • Up to 10 years in state prison
  • A fine of up to $10,000

Theft of $100,000 to $199,999 is a second degree felony, punishable by:

  • Two to 20 years in state prison
  • A fine of up to $10,000

Theft of $200,000 or more is a first degree felony is punishable by:

  • Five to 99 years in state prison
  • A fine of up to $10,000

Legal Defenses

There are several strategies that a defense attorney can use to construct a legal defense in court to fight embezzlement charges.

In order to reach a conviction for embezzlement charges, the prosecution will have to submit evidence that the defendant knowingly and willingly stole money without the knowledge or consent of their employer.

To counteract these claims, the defense may argue that the defendant simply made an accounting error and did not deliberately misuse any funds. They may also introduce evidence and argue that the defendant was pressured or ordered to steal or misuse funds by their employer.

If the defense can convince the jury that the defendant did not knowingly or intentionally steal any money or they did so under pressure, the judge may decide to drop or lower the charges.

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