Defending Embezzlement Charges

by Tucson criminal defense attorney Christopher H. Ariano

If you have been charged with a theft crime in Arizona you will need to know the basics about the charges against you. There are multiple types of theft crimes and the sentencing will depend on your circumstances.

What is embezzlement?

Embezzlement is a specific type of theft crime. General theft means you knowingly take the property of another person with the intent to deprive that person of that property without any lawful authority. A.R.S. § 13-1802(A). Embezzlement occurs when you were entrusted to hold, manage, or monitor someone’s property and then take part or all of their property for your own personal gain.1 This means you had legal access instead of ownership over the property – thus, you must be in a position of trust.2

Vulnerable adults

You can be charged with embezzlement under the Arizona vulnerable adult statute as well. A vulnerable adult is one who is eighteen (18) or older and is unable to protect him or herself from abuse, neglect, or exploitation by others because of some physical or mental impairment. A.R.S. § 46-451(A)(9). Arizona law protects vulnerable adults who lose assets or valuables to their caretakers without adequate consideration.3 This coincides with embezzlement because abusing a position of trust to deprive a vulnerable adult of property without adequate payment or consideration will raise the inference that you sought to deprive this vulnerable adult of property. A.R.S. § 13-1802(B).

What are the penalties for embezzlement?

The punishment for theft depends on the dollar amount of money that has been embezzled. Any property or services with the following values are classified as either felonies or misdemeanors in the following way:4

Property Value Sentence Classification Penalty
Less than $1,000 Class 1 Misdemeanor A fine of up to $2,500 and up to six months in jail or both5
Less than $1,000 where an animal is taken for animal fighting purposes Class 6 Felony A fine of up to $150,000 and a minimum of four months and maximum of two years in jail or both6
Less than $1,000 with use of a firearm Class 6 Felony Same as above
$1,000 or more but less than $2,000 Class 6 Felony Same as above
$2,000 or more but less than $3,000 Class 5 Felony A fine of up to $150,000 and a minimum of six months to a maximum of two and a half years in jail or both
Any theft of a vehicle engine or transmission Class 4 Felony A fine of up to $150,000 and a jail sentence ranging from one year to almost four years
$3,000 or more but less than $4,000 Class 4 Felony Same as above
$2,400 or more but less than $25,000 Class 3 Felony A fine of up to $150,000 and a jail sentence ranging from two to almost nine years
$25,000 or more Class 2 Felony A fine of up to $150,000 and a jail sentence ranging from three to twelve and a half years


What defenses do I have to an embezzlement charge?

There are a multitude of defenses to an embezzlement charge, but each depends on your specific situation. It is important to hire an attorney who can help you determine what defenses apply to your specific circumstances.

For example, in your situation the statute of limitations on your embezzlement charge may be a defense if the plaintiff filed a civil lawsuit over two years from the date they first allegedly discovered the embezzlement occurred.7

There are also affirmative defenses that you could allege if they apply to your situation. These include (1) that the property was a gift to you consistent with a pattern of gift giving before the adult became vulnerable or (2) the superior court approved of the transaction. A.R.S. § 13-1802(C). Other affirmative defenses may apply depending on your situation.

[1] Monica Steiner, Arizona Embezzlement Laws,, (last visited Nov. 18, 2014).

2 Id.

3 Id.

4 A.R.S. § 13-1802(G).

5 A.R.S. § 13-707.

6 A.R.S. § 13-702(D).

7 Karen Rogers, Does the Law Require n Arrest for Company Embezzlement?, your, (last visited Nov. 18, 2014).