Theft vs. embezzlement in California

On Behalf of | May 27, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

White-collar crimes in California consist of several kinds of nonviolent financial offenses, which include theft and embezzlement. The crimes are commonly committed by workers in financial sectors, which is how it got the name. Companies lose billions of dollars annually to theft and embezzlement, but they differ.


Embezzlement occurs when the offender misuses property or money placed in their control by someone who trusted them. This crime is commonly premeditated with the offender using various concealment methods.

While most cases of embezzlement relate to jobs, it can also happen with trusts and inside the government sector. Examples of embezzlement include falsifying records to hide illegal activity, taking money from cash registers, or selling assets without an heir’s permission.


Theft occurs when the defendant intended to deprive the owner of property they didn’t have permission to control. Theft divides further into grand theft, petty, theft, and larceny, which includes shoplifting and pick-pocketing.

In California, grand theft is stealing more than $950 worth of property, and petty theft is theft of $950 or less. Theft gets charged as a felony or misdemeanor based on circumstances.

White-collar crime elements

White-collar crimes are often hard to detect and continue for years, since offenders usually steal in increments. However, the prosecutor must prove certain elements beyond reasonable doubt to charge the defendant.

They must prove the defendant had willful intent to commit a crime, knew of it, concealed it, and the victims relied on the scheme. If theft and embezzlement involve violence or force, they are not a white collar crime.