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Washington Embezzlement Laws

The financial crime of embezzlement is a specific form of theft. A distinction between embezzlement and other instances of theft is that the embezzler acquired possession of the property due to their position, role, or relationship. While they have possession of the property, the embezzler uses or takes the property for their own personal advantage. For example, an executive instructs an assistant to use the company credit card to purchase office furniture; the assistant does indeed purchase the furniture, but also purchases electronics to keep for their personal collection.

Although employee theft is a prevalent occurrence, employees are not the only ones that commit the crime. Embezzlers can be trustees, friends and relatives or public officials. As keepers of the public trust, government officials have an even greater fiduciary duty because they manage public funds. For embezzlement cases where a public official is the perpetrator, many states have stricter laws. For instance, a violation of Washington's statute that prohibits the state treasurer from embezzling constitutes a Class B felony, regardless of the property value involved.

Washington Embezzlement Laws at a Glance

While it's critical to understand a statute in its entirety, it's also helpful to learn about the law through straight-forward summaries that are free of legal jargon. The chart below provides a basic overview of Washington's embezzlement laws.


Washington Revised Code:

  • Section 43.08.140 (Embezzlement)
  • Section 10.37.110 (Larceny or Embezzlement - Specification)
  • Section 9A:56.030 (Theft in the First Degree)
  • Section 9A:56.040 (Theft in the Second Degree)
  • Section 9A:56.050 (Theft in the Third Degree)


Possible Penalties and Sentencing


The actual penalties will depend on the specific facts of the case and are determined by the Sentencing Reform Act and state guidelines.

Embezzlers are punished based on the value of the property involved, as follows:

  • Money or property valued at less than $750: Punishable by up to 1 year in jail, a fine up to $5,000, or both.
  • Money or property valued between $750 and 5,000: Punishable by incarceration up to 5 years and/or a fine up to $10,000
  • Money or property valued above $5,000: Punishable by up to incarceration for 10 years and/or a fine up to $20,000.

Possible Defenses

  • Lack of intent
  • Duress
  • Entrapment
  • The defendant acquired the property under a claim of right in good faith.

Related Offenses

Washington Revised Code

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Washington Embezzlement Laws: Related Resources

Talk to a Washington Criminal Lawyer About Embezzlement

An embezzlement conviction can seriously impact your life with possible incarceration, costly fines, and damage to your reputation. If you've been accused of this crime in Washington, you should consult with an experienced attorney who can work with you to explore specific and effective options for your case. Contact a criminal defense lawyer near you today to learn more.

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