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Arizona Embezzlement FAQs

Posted on August 30, 2022 in Arizona Revised Statutes,White Collar & Fraud

Embezzlement is a crime that involves taking money, property or assets from an employer or another party that has entrusted the defendant with the asset. It is a type of white-collar crime, meaning it has to do with finances and is typically committed for financial gain. Use this embezzlement FAQ page to learn more about this offense in Arizona and how a white-collar crime lawyer in Phoenix can help.

What Is the Definition of Embezzlement?

Embezzlement does not have its own designated criminal statute under Arizona law. Instead, it is part of the state’s theft law, found in Section 13-1802 of the Arizona Revised Statutes. This law defines the crime of theft as knowingly and without legal authority controlling, converting, obtaining or purchasing the property of another person with the intent to deprive the person of that property.

The term “embezzlement” is typically used to describe theft in a business setting, such as an employee stealing company property that he or she has been entrusted with by the employer. While the property or asset was lawfully put in the control of the individual, it becomes the crime of embezzlement if the defendant fraudulently appropriates this property for his or her own personal gain or benefit.

Are Theft and Embezzlement the Same Thing?

Yes and no. While embezzlement is a type of theft, not all theft crimes are classified as embezzlement. In Arizona, the distinction is difficult to make, as the courts use the state’s theft law to deal with embezzlement crimes. However, unlike theft, embezzlement involves the control or possession of property that was lawfully placed in the defendant’s care through a fiduciary responsibility.

What Types of Actions Constitute Criminal Embezzlement?

To prove criminal embezzlement, the prosecutor must show evidence that the defendant had the specific intent to steal the property or defraud the victim of an asset entrusted to the defendant through a fiduciary relationship. The burden of proof in a criminal case is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The scope of this crime can cover many different actions if they were committed by the defendant to intentionally defraud the victim after the defendant was entrusted with the care of the property.

What Are the Penalties for Embezzlement in Arizona?

The penalties for embezzlement depend on the value of the property or assets that were stolen or unlawfully acquired from the victim. If the property obtained is worth less than $1,000, embezzlement is a misdemeanor crime, punishable with a fine of up to $2,500 and/or up to six months in jail.

Anything above the value of $1,000 in an embezzlement case significantly increases the potential penalties. These are felony charges, punishable with months to years of prison time and thousands of dollars in fines. Embezzling property or assets valued at $25,000 or more, for example, is punishable with a maximum sentence of 12.5 years in prison.

What if I Was Accidentally Embezzling?

It is possible to face criminal charges even if you did not intentionally commit the crime of embezzlement. However, lack of intent will be a usable defense in this scenario and can protect you from a conviction. If your lawyer can prove that you had no intention to unlawfully take the funds or assets from the victim and only did so accidentally or with permission, this could lead to the charges against you being dropped.

What Are the Potential Defenses to an Embezzlement Charge?

Lack of intent is not the only potential defense to an embezzlement charge in Arizona. A Phoenix embezzlement defense attorney can explore all of your options for defense strategies, which may include:

  • Permission or consent 
  • The property was given as a gift
  • A lack of fiduciary duty
  • Insufficient evidence
  • Duress or entrapment
  • Incapacitation
  • Incorrect defendant/alibi

If dismissal of the charges or case acquittal is not possible, your lawyer can still argue for reduced charges or penalties. If this is your first arrest, for example, this could be used in your favor to arrange a satisfactory plea deal. For more information about embezzlement crimes in Arizona and building your defense, contact AZ Defenders.