The key difference between embezzlement and other forms of theft is that you had the right to have the thing you are accused of stealing in the first place. That is what can make it an even more serious crime in some judge’s eyes. Someone trusted you with their assets, and they allege you betrayed their trust.
Whatever job you do, your employer trusts you with something. Suppose you work as a landscaper, the boss trust you with a set of garden tools, a selection of plants and maybe the company vehicle. If you work for the local council, the public may trust you with thousands or millions of dollars.
When someone entrusts you with something, you have a duty to use the items or assets for their intended purpose. Does that mean using a spade to bang in a nail is embezzling your employer? No. But taking the company vehicle and tools to do private jobs on the side, without your boss’s permission, might be.
Does intending to return something negate embezzlement?
Some people think that “borrowing” something is different from stealing it. They take a few bills out of the register intending to put them back on Friday when they get paid. Or they move a few thousand out of the company accounts, planning to replace it once they have tripled its value via a quick scheme they have in mind.
Arguing you intended to return something might help reduce the sentence, but it is unlikely to get you off. There are, however, many other ways you can defend against embezzlement. You may have made an honest mistake when doing the accounts or adding up the till. You may have put money into your bag for safekeeping until you could get to the bank, or you may have been following a superior’s orders without realizing it was wrong. The crucial thing is to seek help to understand your situation and defense options as soon as someone accuses you of embezzlement.