The Legal Definition and Consequences of Embezzlement


Embezzlement is an official-sounding word that can confuse and intimidate those who have been charged with it. The term means that someone who had access to the money of another person or organization stole it for personal gain. The legal consequences in an embezzlement case are often higher than a simple theft case due to the position of trust the accused had with the victim. Some typical examples of embezzlement include:

  • A bank teller transferring funds out of a customer’s account to his or her own or pocketing cash from a customer’s deposit
  • An officer of a company spending part of its revenue on personal items
  • A relative or caregiver for a disabled person using money meant for the dependent person’s care on personal expenses

Embezzlement can occur in any situation where one person has control over the money or property of someone else. The key is that person had the right to access the funds or property on behalf of a client, customer, employer, or dependent individual but not the right to use it for his or her own gain.

Penalties for Embezzlement in Minnesota

Minnesota statute 609.52 determines the legal consequences of embezzlement based on the value of the money or property stolen. The penalties increase for those who have a previous felony conviction, even if this is the first charge for embezzlement. Jail terms and fine amounts for a conviction are as follows:

  • 90 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000 for embezzlement of less than $500
  • One year in jail and/or a fine of up to $3,000 for amounts between $501 and $1,000
  • Five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000 for amounts between $1,001 and $5,000. This classification also covers crimes involving theft of a Schedule III, IV, or V controlled substance. A defendant may receive this level of sentencing for embezzlement of $501 to $1,000 if he or she has a previous embezzlement conviction or a crime involving a court of public record, theft of a vehicle, or theft of public funds if these items were valued at $1,000 or less.
  • 10 years in prison and/or a fine up to $20,000 for embezzled amounts between $5,001 and $35,000. This sentencing category also includes crimes involving trade secrets, Schedule I or II controlled substances, or explosive devices.
  • 20 years in prison and/or a fine up to $100,000 for money or property valued at over $35,000. Theft of firearms falls under this category, regardless of their value.

If the embezzlement involved public funds, Minnesota law determines punishment by the value of the money or property stolen. A prison sentence of five years and a fine up to $10,000 applies for amounts of $2,500 or less. A person convicted of embezzlement of public funds greater than $2,500 faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $20,000.

An embezzlement charge may be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony. In either case, having a criminal record can follow you for the rest of your life. While you understandably feel frightened, the best thing you can do is consult with an experienced attorney at Speas Law to secure your legal representation immediately.

You Deserve the Fairest Possible Defense

You are always innocent until proven guilty, which means the burden is on the prosecution to prove its case against you. Speas Law will aggressively challenge the opposing side to prove that you knowingly committed an act of embezzlement. Even if you did engage in embezzlement as described and charged by the prosecution, we may be able to get the charges agsint you dropped or reduced. Please contact us today to learn more about our legal defense strategy and to discuss the specifics of your case.

Disclaimer: The content of this article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Please contact Jennifer Speas to discuss the specifics of your case.