Embezzlement generally occurs when a person who has access or control over money that is not his own uses that money for personal gain. In North Carolina, embezzlement can be a civil or criminal matter. The statute of limitations varies depending on how the embezzlement is classified.
Article 18 of the North Carolina General Statutes defines embezzlement. The statute frames the necessary elements of the offense based on agency law principals. To be guilty of embezzlement, a person must be acting in some form of agency relationship with a principal, such as an employer-employee relationship. The agent must intend to take the money and convert it to his own use. North Carolina classifies the criminal form of embezzlement as a felony, with some limitations. The person must be over 16 years old, for instance.
North Carolina General Statutes (NCGS) section 1-538.2 defines civil embezzlement. The statute itself does not define what constitutes civil embezzlement, so the description used in the criminal embezzlement statute should suffice. Under NCGS 1-538.2, the principal or owner of property that has been embezzled may sue the embezzler in civil court to recover the property or the value lost; this cause of action exists regardless of whether a criminal prosecution exists for the charge.
Statute of Limitations
Statutes of limitations are in place to prevent a person from waiting too long to initiate legal action to recover or remedy some wrong. North Carolina does not have any statutes of limitations for felony cases, according to Find Law. There is therefore no limitation on when a person can be charged for criminal embezzlement. For civil embezzlement, however, the statute of limitation depends on how the plaintiff classifies his injury. Embezzlement will likely fall under fraud or injury to personal property; both of these causes of action must be brought within three years of the injury.
When the Statute of Limitation Begins
Generally, the statute of limitation begins when the injury occurs. In an embezzlement case, this generally means the date the embezzlement took place. However, it is possible to delay the statute of limitations. Under the discovery rule, the statute does not begin to run until the person discovers the damage. According to Expert Law, because embezzlement may not be discovered for years after it took place, the statute may not begin until it is noticed.
This article was written for informational purposes only. It does not give legal advice. Persons with questions regarding embezzlement, the statute of limitations, and any legal issue should consult with an attorney about how the law applies to their situation.