Embezzlement crimes are theft offenses that attract hefty penalties. A conviction can earn you a prison sentence or strict fines, in addition to a criminal record that shows you were charged with embezzlement. The record can make it hard to get employment in the future.
Each case is different, but the most distinguishing factor is that the defendant used their position, role, or relationship to commit the offense. If you face such charges, your freedom and rights are at risk. The best action would be to hire a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney to defend you.
What is the Federal Definition of Embezzlement?
Under the Supreme Court Definition, embezzlement happens when a person is legally entrusted with property by the owner. However, instead of being a good steward, the individual fraudulently takes the property and misappropriates it while depriving the rightful owner.
The primary difference between embezzlement and other types of theft is that the owner entrusts the offender with the property, only for the person to deprive the rightful owner illegally.
Embezzlement in California
The Penal Code 503 of the State of California defines embezzlement as the misappropriation of funds belonging to someone else. The offense is perpetrated by someone to whom the owner entrusted the funds. It’s one of the white-collar crimes in California, also known as employee theft.
Embezzlement occurs in many forms, for example:
- A state or municipal official entrusted with taxpayers’ money may use the funds for personal gain. Penal code 504 applies in their case.
- Embezzlement cases by private and public entities against their clients fall under Penal Code 503
- Family members, doctors, or lawyers entrusted with an aging individual’s money may misappropriate it.
- Embezzlement across different job types or among people with various relationship types
Embezzlement may involve large or small amounts of money or property. You can be found guilty of the offense even if you borrowed small amounts of money, intending to refund later. If you’re facing embezzlement charges in Los Angeles, it would be in your best interest to contact a Los Angeles embezzlement attorney for legal counsel and defense.
What Are the Penalties for Embezzlement?
The penalties for embezzlement depend on whether the crime is charged as a felony (grand theft) or demeanor (petty theft). The determination often depends on the value of the funds or property embezzled.
Grand theft happens when the item or funds are worth $400 or more. The crime is charged under Penal Code Section 487 PC. The crime is also known as “wobbler” and can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor. Factors that come into play in making the determination include:
- Your previous criminal records
- How much was lost in the crime
- How sophisticated were the methods used in embezzling
- The level of the victim’s vulnerability
If the crime is charged as a felony grand theft, a conviction can get you a fine of up to $10,000 and imprisonment of up to three years in State Prison. A misdemeanor conviction can get you a fine of up to $1,000 and prison time of up to one year in county jail.
Embezzlement of property worth $400 or less is petty theft, and the punishment is:
- A maximum fine of $1,000
- Up to one-year imprisonment in county jail
- Summary probation
Facing a jail term affects your freedom and life immensely. An embezzlement criminal record also diminishes your chances of gaining future employment. The best way to protect your rights and future is to have an embezzlement attorney in Los Angeles, CA, defend you against the charges.
If the property embezzled is worth less than $50 and you have no prior theft record, your charges could potentially be reduced to an infraction, depending on how strong your defense is. An infraction could earn you a $250 fine without jail time.
Depending on the extent of damage on the victim of the embezzlement, you may also face an additional prison term. The court may issue the following potential sentence enhancements:
- Another year if the value of the property was over $65,000
- A further two years if the value of the property is more than $200,000
- An extra three years if the property was more than $1.3 million
- Four more years for property worth above $3.2 million
How Can I Defend Myself Against Embezzlement Charges?
You want to put in the best defense possible when charged with embezzlement to have the charges dropped. Working with a skilled criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles can enhance the chances of getting less severe penalties because they can create a strong defense strategy for you.
Possible defenses in embezzlement cases include the following:
Lack of Intent
If the value of the funds in the case is significant, you could argue that you made an honest clerical mistake. The prosecution must prove that your actions were deliberate and you had the intention to misappropriate the funds. An experienced lawyer can help you fight back, given that the financial world can sometimes be marred with genuine mistakes.
Your lawyer can help you attack the claim’s validity and evidence against you. Embezzlement is often complex, and people use sophisticated means to hide their tracks. With some financial and legal understanding of how the offense works, you may prove that you didn’t do anything illegal.
Operating Under Duress
While you have to be responsible for your actions, the law may be more lenient if power dynamics were involved that made you commit embezzlement. Court sympathy may make the charges against you dropped.
An Experienced Embezzlement Attorney Tenaciously Fighting for You
You know a lot is at stake if you have been charged with embezzlement. That’s why you should not fight back alone. Having a Los Angeles embezzlement lawyer to represent you can take much of the burden off your back. They can guide you through the complex justice system and help you navigate successfully.
Our lawyers can examine your case and help you create a winning defense strategy. We take our duty towards our clients seriously and work hard to protect their rights, freedom, and future. Let us be your pillar of support as you go to trial. Contact us to schedule a FREE case assessment.