Yes, you can go to jail for embezzlement. In Canada, the maximum sentence you can receive for embezzlement depends on the value of the stolen property. If it is less than $5,000, the maximum prison sentence is two years. If it is more than $5,000, the maximum prison sentence is 10 years.
What is considered embezzlement?
Embezzlement means stealing or misappropriating property (such as money) which has been entrusted to you. It is commonly called ‘employee theft’, as this is the setting in which embezzlement most typically occurs. An example would be an employee paying themselves money using the company cheque book, without permission from their employer.
For an embezzlement charge to be upheld, the prosecution must show that –
- You intentionally took, spent or used assets belonging to someone else, and
- You did so without consent, and
- You did so with the intention of depriving the owner on a permanent basis
How is embezzlement different from theft?
In Canada, embezzlement falls under the category of theft. However, it is actually a type of ‘aggravated theft’. In legal terminology, an ‘aggravated’ crime means there are factors which make it more serious. In the context of embezzlement, the aggravating factor is that you were in a position of trust, which you then abused.
Therefore, embezzlement is not different from theft, as such. But it is a very specific type of theft, because it involves an abuse of trust. For instance, a finance department is trusted to access a company’s bank account. Any employee who uses this position to steal funds is guilty of embezzlement.
In Canada, there is no separate charge for embezzlement. Instead, those accused of misappropriating funds are charged with theft. There are two types of theft offence – theft over $5,000 and theft under $5,000. Theft over $5,000 must proceed by way of indictment, which means the penalties can be more severe.
How much jail time do you get for embezzlement?
The maximum jail sentence you can receive in Canada for embezzlement is –
- 10 years for theft over $5,000
- 2 years for theft under $5,000
However, the maximum sentence is only handed out in the most serious of cases. The amount of jail time you get for embezzlement depends on a wide range of issues. This includes the value of the stolen property, the extent of your crime, and any mitigating factors which explain your actions (such as personal financial problems).
Can embezzlement charges be dropped?
The prosecution must prove that you are guilty of embezzlement. If there is not enough evidence to shows you misappropriated funds, the charges against you may be dropped. The charges may also be dropped if you can establish a credible defence. For example, it may be that –
- You actually owned the property
- You genuinely thought you were entitled to the money
- You were given consent to take the money/property
If you have been accused of embezzlement, please speak to our Vancouver lawyers today. We can help you defend the charge.