Embezzlement in Texas is a specific type of theft defined by both federal and state law. The U.S. Department of Justice notes that only someone who already has the money or property lawfully in hand can embezzle.
If the perpetrator does not already have the entrustment or control of that property legally through a fiduciary relationship, it is likely another type of theft crime.
Elements of embezzlement
Federal law states that there are four elements that a prosecutor must prove before someone may receive an embezzlement conviction:
- That a fiduciary relationship exists between the defendant and the owner of the property
- That the defendant came into possession of the property through his or her employment
- That the defendant appropriated the property for his or her own use
- That the defendant acted with the intent of depriving the owner of the property
FindLaw notes that Texas statutes say the prosecution must be able to prove the elements of embezzlement beyond a reasonable doubt.
Defenses for embezzlement
One possible defense against an embezzlement charge is that the defendant made a mistake, and mishandled rather than stole the property. Another defense is that the defendant never intended to dispossess the owner of the property. The defendant may also argue that the property owner gave consent for him or her to take it.
Consequences of embezzlement
The consequences of an embezzlement conviction depend on the value of the property embezzled, as well as the position of the person who allegedly took it. For example, penalties may be higher if the individual was a public servant rather than an employee of a private establishment.
If the property value is below $1,500, the offense is a misdemeanor and may result in a jail sentence as long as one year. For $1,500 and over, the offense is a felony of varying degrees, and the resulting sentence could range all the way up to 99 years in state prison.