The Crime of Embezzlement in California - PC 503
Embezzlement is type of white collar crime described under California Penal Code 503 PC as the fraudulent appropriation of property by someone to whom it has been entrusted.
The difference between embezzlement and other types of California theft crimes is that it requires that the property taken had been entrusted to you by the rightful owner.
In other words, a defendant legally possessed the property, but decided to take it for their own use without permission.
Examples of embezzlement
Embezzlement is often called “employees theft” because it typically involves someone taking money or property from their employer. A few common examples include:
- abuse of a company expense account;
- transferring employer funds to a personal account;
- cashier stealing cash from their cash register drawer;
Most Penal Code 503 PC embezzlement cases in California occur in some type of position of employment.
In many companies, there are some employees who were given permission to access the employers bank accounts and credit card numbers.
However, embezzlement could also occur in sophisticated Ponzi schemes that are designed to steal money or property from investors.
To give readers a better understanding of California's embezzlement law, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers are providing a detailed review below.
What Factors Must Be Proven for a PC 503 Embezzlement Conviction?
California Penal Code Section 503 PC provides a simple and straightforward definition of the crime of embezzlement:
- “Embezzlement is the fraudulent appropriation of property by a person to whom it has been entrusted.”
In order for a prosecutor to convict a defendant for PC 503 embezzlement, they will have to prove all the different factors of the white collar offense.
Elements of the crime
These are commonly known in the legal field as the “elements of the crime” and listed under CALCRIM 1806 Jury Instructions:
- defendant was entrusted with property by the owner;
- owner did so because they had trust in the defendant;
- defendant fraudulently converted or used property for their own benefit;
- defendant had intent to deprive owner from property's use.
As you can see, there is typically an employee and employer relationship where the defendant was trusted with money or property belonging to the victim.
Intent to deprive
To be found guilty, it has to be shown defendant intended to deprive the property owner. Temporary intent is sufficient for a conviction.
Also, having an intent to return the property is not a valid defense for PC 503 embezzlement, unless it was returned before charges are filed.
What Are the Penalties for Penal Code 503 PC Embezzlement?
If you are convicted of PC 503 embezzlement, the penalties will depend on the total value of the property taken.
- If the value is $950 or less, it's a Penal Code 484 PC petty theft punishable by up to six months in county jail and a fine up to $1,000;
- If the value exceeds $950, vehicle or firearm, it's a Penal Code 487 PC grand theft “wobbler” that can be charged with a misdemeanor or felony punishable by up to three years in jail and a fine up to $10.000.
A felony conviction in California will result in losing your right to own or possess a firearm and could have adverse immigration consequences.
What are the Related California Crimes for Embezzlement?
Penal Code 504 PC – embezzlement by a public officer
Penal Code 424 PC - misappropriation of public funds
Penal Code 459 PC - burglary
Penal Code 470 PC - forgery
Penal Code 484 PC – petty theft
Penal Code 487 PC – grand theft
Penal Code 496 PC – receiving stolen property
How Can I Fight PC 503 Embezzlement Charges?
If you were accused on embezzlement in violation of California Penal Code 503 PC, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers can use a variety of strategies in an effort to get the charges reduced or dismissed. Some common defenses include:
- lack of intent;
- no fraudulent use;
- good faith belief;
- false allegation.
PC 503 embezzlement cases normally involve trails of evidence and circumstances. Clearly, each case is unique and we will need to closely examine all the details in order to plan an appropriate defense.
Lack of intent
We might be able to make a reasonable argument you didn't have an intent to deprive the owner of their property, which is a crucial element of the crime listed above.
In some PC 503 embezzlement cases, prosecutors can find it difficult to prove criminal intent. Perhaps we can show you simply made an honest mistake, but never had the intent to commit embezzlement.
Good faith belief
In some embezzlement cases, we might be able to make an argument you had a good faith belief you were acting with the owner's permission to take the property, even if it later turned out to be a mistaken belief. This type of argument is saying you had a reasonable belief you had a right to the property.
We might be able to argue the embezzlement charges against you are due to a false accusation and wrongful arrest. Perhaps the accuser is falsely accusing you out of other motives, such as anger or jealously.
Criminal Defense for California Embezzlement Charges
If you are under a criminal investigation, or already charged with California Penal Code 503 PC embezzlement, contact our skilled team of Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys for an initial consultation.
Our law firm partners have over six decades of combined experience defending clients against white collar offenses, including embezzlement.
Each or our law firm partners have worked for the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office, which gives us a unique look at how our criminal justice system operates.
Through a legal process known as prefiling intervention, our lawyers will work with law enforcement and the prosecutor in an effort to avoid the formal filing of criminal charges before court.
Eisner Gorin LLP is a top-ranked criminal defense law firm representing clients throughout Southern California, including LA County, Orange County, Ventura County, Torrance, Riverside, San Bernardino.
Our office is located at 1875 Century Park E #705, Los Angeles, CA 90067.
Our main office is right next to the Van Nuys Superior Courthouse at 14401 Sylvan St #112 Van Nuys, CA 91401.
Contact our firm for an immediate consultation at (877) 781-1570.