Embezzlement is a type of property theft. It occurs when someone who was entrusted to manage or monitor someone else’s money or property steals all or part of that money or property for the taker’s personal gain. The key is that the defendant had legal access to another’s money or property, but not legal ownership of it. Taking the money or property for the defendant’s own gain is stealing. However, when combined with the fact that this stealing was also a violation of a special position of trust, you have the unique crime of embezzlement.

Punishment for Embezzlement

A conviction for embezzlement usually results in a fine, jail or prison time, or both. Each state has its own penalty scheme; depending on the value or type of property you have embezzled (and in many states, whether there were any aggravating factors accompanying the crime), the penalties will differ in their severity.

  1. Property value: Most states punish embezzlement convictions according to the value of the money or property stolen. Most commonly, a state will list monetary value ranges (for example “property worth less than $500”) and corresponding fines and jail or prison sentences for each range.
  2. Property type: Some states also list types of property that (regardless of value) incur specific fines and prison terms. For example, because it is a precursor ingredient in making methamphetamine, anhydrous ammonia is an example of a type of property that many states specifically enumerate for harsh penalties, regardless of the amount or value stolen. Other types of property often include firearms, livestock, property stolen during an emergency or natural disaster, or public records.
  3. Special Penalties for Special Property or Defendants: Many states single-out embezzlement of particular kinds of property or by certain defendants, and punish those crimes more severely than other embezzlement offenses. Consider the following examples:
    • An animal taken for the purpose of animal fighting (Arizona)
    • An object that has inherent, subjective, or idiosyncratic value to its owner even if the property has no market value or replacement cost; utility company property (Arkansas)
    • A biological sample, culture, microorganism, or records of a scientific secret, technical process, or invention (Connecticut)
    • A fire extinguisher; any amount of citrus fruit consisting of 2,000 or more pieces; any stop sign (Florida)
    • Property exceeding $500 in value that is a ferrous metal (metals containing iron, such as steel or pig iron) (Georgia) Acquaculture products (fish) from a private, fenced area (Hawaii)
    • Religious items worth more than $100 (New York)
    • Valuable metals embezzled from a hospital (Indiana)
    • Embezzlement by school treasurers (Pennsylvania)
    • Buffalo or captive non-domestic elk (South Dakota)
    • Embezzling public money meant for highway or road use by a chief administrative officer (Tennessee)
    • Embezzlement by someone who is in a contractual relationship with the government (Texas)
    • An on-duty search and rescue dog (Washington)
    • Property stolen from a corpse (Wisconsin)
  4. Restitution: Many states require defendants to pay restitution to their victim(s). This usually involves repaying the victim for the monetary value of the money or property embezzled. When applicable, restitution is most often in addition to the applicable fines and prison time.

Pennsylvania Penalties

Property worth $2,000 +: Penalties include a fine of up to $15,000, up to seven years in prison, or both.

Property worth between $200 –$2,000: Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, up to five years in prison, or both.

Property worth between $50 – $200: Penalties include a fine of up to $5,000, up to two years in prison, or both.

Property worth less than $50: Penalties include a fine of up to $2,500, up to one year in jail, or both.

Contact Brian Zeiger

An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you determine whether you have any grounds for dismissal of the charges, explore plea options, or represent you at trial. Only someone familiar with the criminal court system and cases like yours will know how good your chances are for a favorable outcome. A knowledgeable attorney will take all of this into consideration, assist you in making decisions about your case, and protect your rights.

If you or someone you know has been charged with embezzlement, it is critical to have an experienced attorney advocating on your behalf. Brian Zeiger is an experienced criminal defense attorney who will vigorously defend your rights. Contact The Zeiger Firm today at (215) 546-0340 for a consultation, and let us help you.


Brian J. Zeiger, Esquire, is an experienced and successful criminal defense and civil rights attorney. He is a seasoned trial lawyer with significant experience before juries and judges. Brian understands civil rights cases, including Taser, Wrongful Death, Excessive Force, Police Brutality, Police Misconduct, Malicious Prosecution, Monell Claims, Sexual Assault, Prisoner’s Rights, Time Credit, Medical Malpractice, and Medical Indifference.