People often use the terms theft, larceny, embezzlement and robbery interchangeably in everyday conversation. However, these words can have different precise legal definitions.
In fact, different states vary in how they use the terms and the penalties that they apply for each offense. Therefore, grasping how Texas uses terms helps an individual prepare a solid legal defense if necessary.
How Texas defines theft and larceny
At its core, theft is about someone taking something that does not belong to them with the intent to keep it permanently. Theft does not just apply to swiping physical items. This broad expression encompasses the unlawful seizure of tangible goods as well as financial crimes, intellectual property theft and even identity theft.
Larceny is a more traditional term for theft and essentially means the same thing. In conversation, people tend to use “larceny” in cases of taking physical items and use “theft” in broader discussions that include digital and financial transactions.
A theft of property worth more than $500 elevates the offense to grand theft. Grand theft can still be a misdemeanor, but a person who takes items worth more than $1,500 faces felony charges.
The elements of embezzlement
In Texas, embezzlement occurs when someone who works for a company takes money or items that the organization entrusted them with. For example, a cashier taking money from the cash register or an employee siphoning off company funds are examples of embezzlement. The gravity of the charges depends on the stolen amount and the level of deception.
How Texas distinguishes robbery from theft
Robbery refers to more than taking an item. These cases involve force, threat or intimidation.
An act of theft while intentionally causing bodily harm or instilling the fear of imminent harm or death is an instance of robbery. The state considers robbery a more severe offense and prosecutes it accordingly.
Clearly, the consequences for each type of offense make a significant difference in a case. Understanding the distinction between theft, embezzlement and robbery can help a defendant decide how to fight legal charges.