What is Embezzlement Law?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 22 January 2020
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Embezzlement law covers the laws and procedures related to the crime of embezzlement. Embezzlement occurs when a person in legal possession of an asset steals it. For example, if an accountant who has been given legal access to a client’s cash steals a portion of it, this may be considered embezzlement. Embezzlement law determines which acts are considered embezzlement and covers legal procedures for dealing with it.

In most jurisdictions, embezzlement law covers a specific type of theft. When a person commits embezzlement, he steals from a person, business, or entity. In such a case, however, the person who commits embezzlement has a legal right to be in possession of the money or property he steals. Instead of handling the money or property in the way that is expected of him, he fraudulently takes control of it for his own purposes. For example, a sales person may collect money for his employer, which means he has a legal right to be in possession of the money. He may then embezzle it by keeping all or part of the money for his own purposes or transferring it to another party, without his employer's knowledge or permission.


In many jurisdictions, an accused embezzler will face criminal charges. In such a case, however, the wronged party may have to prove that the accused person committed embezzlement. To be convicted of embezzlement in many jurisdictions, the defendant must have been entrusted with the money or property of the wronged party. Likewise, the defendant must have had access to the money or property because of the relationship he had with the party who was wronged. Additionally, the defendant must have used or transferred the money or property both intentionally and fraudulently.

Embezzlement law covers cases of all sizes and levels of seriousness. For example, an embezzlement case may involve an employee who has embezzled millions of dollars from a company. Some cases involve small amounts of money, however. For instance, a small-scale case of embezzlement may involve a waitress who keeps the money a restaurant patron pays for his meal and claims the customer left the restaurant without paying.

A jurisdiction’s embezzlement laws also dictate how a person can be punished for embezzlement. Often, an embezzler receives a fine that equals or exceeds the amount of money he has embezzled. Sometimes, however, a person who is guilty of embezzlement also faces a jail sentence.


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