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The difference between embezzlement and larceny

On Behalf of | Dec 31, 2020 | Criminal law

Embezzlement is a type of theft, as is larceny. However, despite their similarities, the two are actually much different. If you have been accused of either one, it is important for you to understand both the differences and the similarities as you look into your legal options.

The initial acquisition

The difference stems from the way that the property is initially acquired. When it is done so lawfully and then that property is appropriated fraudulently, that’s embezzlement. With larceny, the initial taking itself is also illegal and was never approved by anyone.

For instance, perhaps a person is a worker at a convenience store, and they are tasked with gathering up the money from the register and putting it into the safe each night. This is part of the normal closing procedures for the store. Taking the money from the register is not illegal. They have acquired the money properly.

However, if they then skim 10% off of the top before they put it into the safe, and they alter the books so that no one will know, that’s embezzlement. They were entrusted to take care of the money properly and then took advantage of the situation.

Larceny, on the other hand, would happen if a third party walked into the store while the person behind the counter was away from their post. Seeing the register, that person opted to open the drawer and remove some of the larger bills. The acquisition of the bills was clearly illegal from the very beginning.

Embezzlement often happens with people who are in a position of power or authority. They use that position for material gain. Larceny typically happens when a person who is unconnected to the business enters that space and takes something that they were never intended to have in any capacity.

Your rights

The differences may seem small, but they can change everything during a legal case. If you have been accused of either crime, you must know exactly what that entails and what options you have.