When you think about embezzlement, you may imagine a large scheme designed to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from a large corporation. In reality, however, many cases in which an employee steals from his or her employer involve smaller but nonetheless significant amounts. 

If you face theft or embezzlement charges in North Carolina, learn more about how the state laws will affect your case. 

State definition of embezzlement 

Theft becomes embezzlement when it involves certain individuals, including, but not limited to, trustees, clerks, agents and business administrators who divert company funds for their own use. Embezzlement is a Class H felony in North Carolina but becomes a Class C felony when the amount exceeds $100,000. Examples of embezzlement include processing retail returns for merchandise and pocketing the cash, taking cash from a till or bank vault or similar actions. 

Embezzlement penalties 

Embezzlement sentences can vary dramatically in North Carolina depending on the value of the stolen funds and whether you have other convictions in the past. In general, however, Class H felony embezzlement carries up to six months in prison with no prior convictions, while Class C felony embezzlement carries 58 to 73 months in prison. In addition to incarceration, the court can order that you repay the embezzled amount. 

Certain professionals may be subject to elevated penalties. These include railroad officers and public employees, who receive a Class F felony for less than $100,000. 

Defending an embezzlement charge 

Because of the extensive sentencing variance for this crime, a solid legal defense may influence your penalties. For example, you may have diverted funds unintentionally or done so under duress from another person. Actions on behalf of law enforcement that may constitute entrapment could also influence the outcome of your case. 

Small businesses lose significant revenue to embezzlement. For this reason, they may choose to prosecute even for small amounts.