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Understanding theft versus embezzlement

People work hard to obtain their property, assets and funds. Therefore, when another party takes those things away, it is a serious offense.

Criminal charges for theft and embezzlement have some similarities, but they still stand as separate charges. For those facing such accusations, it is important to understand the differences. 


A party commits a theft when he or she willingly takes the property of another unlawfully, with the intent to deprive the owner of said property. The severity of the charge and possible penalties vary depending on the value of the property stolen. This may range from petty theft to grand theft.


If a party misappropriates property or funds received from another person for a specific purpose, the party commits embezzlement. In regards to the charge, misappropriation is the use of funds in any way other than intended, including applying funds or property in a way contrary to a request, or not utilizing the funds as instructed at all. Similar to theft, embezzlement charges may range depending upon the value of the assets and level of offense. Parties may face either misdemeanor or felony charges, depending on the severity of the event.

Key differences

While both of these white-collar crimes involve the unlawful separation of people from their property, the way in which parties perform this task make a large difference. While theft involves a party taking property without permission, parties who embezzle property or assets receive them from the lawful owner and utilize them inappropriately. This difference is the main factor in determining and substantiating either charge.

If you or a loved one face theft or embezzlement charges, taking time to learn about the charge and the process for the case may help determine the best course of action. It may also be beneficial to consult with a professional and build a strong defense.

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