In California, a conviction for embezzlement can result in high fines and prison time. The stigma of merely being charged with embezzlement can damage your reputation and career. If you’ve been charged with embezzlement, it is essential to have an experienced defense attorney fighting for you. Call Don Ho Law now to discuss your case and to begin building a strong defense.
Embezzlement: California Penal Code §§503-513
In California, embezzlement is a type of theft that occurs when a person takes property that was entrusted to them to use for personal gain. This can happen whenever a person has legal access to the property or money of another person, but is not the legal owner of that property or money, and there is a legal relationship of trust.
To prove a charge of embezzlement, the prosecution will have to show:
- That there was a relationship of trust,
- That, because of this relationship, property or money was entrusted to you, and
- That you purposely took this property or money for your own benefit.
Without the relationship of trust, taking money or property would simply be a form of theft. Examples of legal relationships of trust include public and corporate officers, agents, and trustees. Embezzlement is often thought of in employment situations, where the relationship of trust is between an employee and employer, a doctor and patient, or a lawyer and client.
An embezzlement charge does not require that you intend to keep the money or property that is taken. You can be charged with embezzlement even if you intended only to take the money or property for a short time before returning it.
Consequences: California Penal Code §§ 484-502.9, 514-515
The consequences of an embezzlement charge can be steep. In general, embezzlement is punished based on the amount of money or value of the property that was taken.
Embezzlement will be charged as a misdemeanor if the amount or value is less than or equal to $950. A charge of misdemeanor embezzlement could result in up to six months in county jail and a fine of up to $1000.
If the amount of money or the value of the property embezzled is more than $950, a variety of factors will be used to determine if it will be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. A misdemeanor charge could mean up to a year in county jail and a fine of up to $5000. A felony charge could mean up to three years in state prison.
If the embezzlement charge is for the taking of public money or property by a public official, it will be charged as a felony, and could lead to increased fines, increased prison time, and will permanently bar you from holding any future position in state or local government.
Defenses to embezzlement charges
Embezzlement is a serious charge, and it is essential that you have an experienced criminal defense attorney fighting for your rights. Don Ho understands how to defend against these charges, and will zealously argue on your behalf to make sure that your rights are protected.
There are several defenses that can be raised against embezzlement charges, including:
- The good faith belief that the money or property belonged to you
- You did not intend to deprive the owner of their property, and did not take the property for your own benefit
- The owner did not demand the return of the property
- Factual innocence
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