In some ways, both embezzlement and theft are similar. They both involve a person taking money or assets that they are not supposed to take or use. Both are illegal and can result in criminal charges.
But there are also some major differences between the two. One of the biggest is that embezzlement is generally the misappropriation of funds, rather than direct theft. The person was given those funds and entrusted with them for a reason, but they used them for another purpose or used them improperly, which is a crime.
An example of what this looks like
For instance, imagine that someone enters a business that has a cash register at the front. They open the cash register, take money out of the drawer and then flee before the police officers arrive. They were never supposed to have access to that money in the first place, so this is just a classic example of theft.
But with embezzlement, a company employee may be granted access to use bank accounts in the company’s name. Maybe they need to make purchases from suppliers or transfer money to other businesses. Perhaps this person is in charge of the financial records, so they need access to these accounts as they maintain those records.
Rather than directly stealing money that they were never supposed to have, this person starts transferring the money in ways that are prohibited. Rather than buying supplies, they transfer the money to their personal bank account. They then doctor the records so that it doesn’t look like they took those funds. Embezzlement relies much more on deceit and hiding the action, whereas theft is generally very obvious.
For those who are facing these types of serious criminal accusations, it’s important to understand all potential legal defense options.