What are the Penalties for Embezzlement?

Felicia Dye

Embezzlement is a white collar crime that occurs when a person illegally takes claim to resources that he had authorized access to. The punishment for such an abuse of position is likely to include an order for restitution and the payment of fines. The individual may be incarcerated, placed on probation, or ordered to do community service. It is also likely that the indicted individual will endure professional penalties, such as loss of licensing.

Embezzlement penalties range from firing to prison sentences.
Embezzlement penalties range from firing to prison sentences.

It is important to understand that there are numerous factors that can affect embezzlement penalties. Jurisdiction is a primary example because minimum and maximum penalties vary from one place to another. The connection between the embezzler and the victim can also play a role in sentencing.

A person found guilty of embezzlement may be sentenced to incarceration.
A person found guilty of embezzlement may be sentenced to incarceration.

When a person is convicted of embezzlement, the courts and the plaintiff are likely to put forth substantial effort to determine the amount of assets that were taken. It is very likely that the guilty party will be required to pay restitution, which is money that will be used to repay the victim. It is also likely that a person will be ordered to pay fines and court costs. Fines, which is money paid to a government when its laws are violated, should not be confused with restitution.

There is a possibility that a person convicted of embezzlement may be sentenced to jail or prison. The circumstances of the case will usually determine how short or long the period of incarceration will be. It can range from all time being suspended to a person literally spending a number of years in a correctional facility.

If a person is given a suspended sentence, she may be placed on probation. This arrangement allows a person to avoid being incarcerated if she fulfills certain conditions. It is very likely that one of the conditions may be community service. This is a punishment that involves a criminal doing unpaid work for the benefit of the public. The number of hours that a person is ordered to complete can greatly vary.

It is common for embezzlement to occur in an employment setting. When this is the case, the individual will almost surely be fired. Furthermore, his professional reputation is likely to be severely tarnished, which can make it very difficult for him to gain future employment in that capacity. If the individual is in a field that requires licensing, his license may be revoked or he could be suspended from professional associations.

Embezzlement is when an employee knowingly defrauds the company they work for.
Embezzlement is when an employee knowingly defrauds the company they work for.

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Discussion Comments


@KaBoom - Sometimes white collar crimes aren't punished so severely, but I think that's changed in the last few years. I mean, consider the fact that Martha Stewart got jail time for insider trading. That's pretty much a victimless crime (much more so than embezzling) but she still went to jail because of it.

That being said, I think the penalties for an embezzlement charge should vary depending on the severity of the crime. Every case is different, and I'm sure there are some instances where community service or restitution would be more appropriate than jail time.


In reality, I feel like a lot of people don't get in too much trouble for embezzlement charges. I remember reading awhile ago that most of the time people serve more jail time for possession of a small amount of marijuana than for embezzling large sums of money.

I personally think that's backward. Usually people who embezzle are in trusted positions of the money, and take advantage of the trust placed in them for their own gain. Sometimes they really affect other people with their crimes too. I think embezzlers should definitely be punished more than someone who possesses a small amount of drugs.

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