California Penal Code Section 503 defines embezzlement as fraudulent appropriation of property by a person to whom it has been entrusted. To commit a person in the embezzlement the prosecutor must be able to prove each of the following elements:
- The owner of the property entrusted his property to the defendant;
- The owner did so because he trusted the defendant;
- The defendant illegally converted or used the entrusted property for his own benefit and;
- Upon converting the property the defendant intended to deprive the owner of the property’s use
Embezzlement can only be proved if there is an actual evidence of trust or confidence between two parties. To “entrust” means to give a legal power to access or control the property. When a person abuses a position of trust and take or use a property which doesn’t belong to him his action are considered fraudulent. There must be a clear intent to deprive the property’s true owner of its use. This deprivation does not need to be lasting. Merely preventing the owner of the property from using or enjoying his property even for short period of time is considered enough to satisfy the intent element of embezzlement. Restoring the embezzled property will not protect you from punishment, but restoring property may help to decrease the harshness of the sentence.
Embezzlement Commonly Involves Employee Theft or Employee Fraud
Embezzlement most commonly occurs in cases in connection with business, because most cases involve an employee/employer relationship. That’s why embezzlement is also called employee theft or employee fraud. Typically embezzlement involves theft which can be both grand and petty theft. However, embezzlement can also be connected to other crimes like forgery, burglary, receiving stolen property.
Defenses to Penal Code 503 Embezzlement
Defendant had a good faith belief to entitlement: Under California Penal Code 503 you might be exonerated if you had a reasonable belief that you had a right to the property you took. You have to show that:
- Defendant took the ownership of the property openly or publicly without using surreptitious methods;
- Defendant didn’t take the property because the property owner owed you a debt
Lack of criminal intent: Embezzlement, like all theft crimes, requires “specific intent,” so if you took property accidentally or then this defense can apply.
False accusation:False accusations are mostly common in embezzlement cases, because the injured party is almost always someone who had a preexisting business or personal relationship with the defendant.
Penalties for Penal Code 503 Embezzlement
Since California embezzlement is categorized as a theft crime, you will be faces penalties either charged under grand theft or petty theft depending on the type and value of the embezzled property. When the value of stolen property is less than $950 embezzlement is considered a form of petty theft and when the value is $950 or above embezzlement is a form of grand theft.
California Penalties for Grand Theft Embezzlement
You will face the penalties for grand theft embezzlement if the:
- Property valued more than $950
- Property was a motor vehicle
- Property was a firearm
In most cases grand theft embezzlement is a wobbler offense in California, thus it may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Cases involving firearms always carry felony penalties.
Penalties for Misdemeanor Grand Theft Embezzlement
Penalties for misdemeanor grand theft embezzlement in California include:
- Up to one year in a county jail
- Fines up to one thousand dollars
- Misdemeanor (summary) probation
Penalties for Felony Grand theft Embezzlement
Penalties for felony grand theft embezzlement in California include:
- Either 16 months, two or three years in a county jail; and/or
- A fine of up to ten thousand dollars; and/or
- Felony (formal) probation
California Sentencing for Grand Theft Embezzlement
California Penal Code provides sentence enhancement in case grand theft embezzlement includes particularly large sums of money.
- One year for property valued more than $65,000
- Two years for property valued more $200,000
- Three years for property valued more $1,300,000
- Four years for property valued more $3,200,000
Petty Theft Embezzlement Penalties
In California law petty theft embezzlement is a misdemeanor offense, punishable by:
- Up to 6 months in a County jail;
- A fine up to $1,000
- Misdemeanor Probation.
Get Help from a California Embezzlement Defense Lawyer
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