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What you should know about theft, embezzlement and larceny

On Behalf of | Mar 13, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

In South Dakota, embezzlement, larceny, and theft are all classified broadly as property crimes. They differ in terms of their specific elements and contexts.

Anyone who’s charged with any type of theft crime should ensure they understand the elements of the charge, the possible penalties and the defense options they have available to them. If you’ve been charged with a property crime, you’ll ideally act as quickly as you can to gain this knowledge with the assistance of a legal professional so that you can make thoughtful and informed choices about your legal options.


Theft is a broad term that encompasses both embezzlement and larceny, as well as other related offenses such as robbery and burglary. In South Dakota, theft is generally defined as the unauthorized taking or control of someone else’s property with the intent to deprive them of it permanently. The penalties for theft in South Dakota depend on the value of the stolen property and any aggravating factors, such as the presence of a weapon during the theft.


Embezzlement occurs when a person who is entrusted with control of someone else’s property, such as an employee or a fiduciary, fraudulently uses that property for their own personal use. A key element in embezzlement is a breach of trust because the person committing the act has legal access to the property but not the legal ownership of it.


Larceny occurs when you take someone else’s personal property with the intent to prevent the rightful owner from having possession of it. Unlike embezzlement, larceny does not involve a breach of trust, as the person committing the act does not have legal access to the property.

In South Dakota, embezzlement and larceny are both treated as types of theft, and theft crimes are punishable based on the value of the property involved. Some charges are classified as misdemeanors, while others are felonies. A defense strategy must be set in motion according to the circumstances of the case, as well as the possible penalties that the accused is facing.