San Diego Embezzlement Criminal Defense Lawyer
Embezzlement is a white-collar theft crime. The charge, like all theft crimes, takes into account the value of the property or money that has been taken. Embezzlement crimes take place within a person’s place of employment and, therefore, are typically referred to as employee theft.
For example, a person who steals from a company as an employee of that company is committing embezzlement. A person who steals from that same company who is not an employee is committing larceny. When a person has access to a company’s bank accounts, credit cards and other financial information and uses it to misappropriate funds or commit fraud, it is referred to as embezzlement.
If you are charged with embezzlement, a conviction can negatively affect you in many ways. Depending on the level of the charge, you could face jail time and steep fines. Additionally, a person with an embezzlement conviction on his or her record is likely to have a tough time getting hired.
It’s important to discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney who knows the technicalities of the law and has experience fighting these kinds of charges. If you or a loved one is facing an embezzlement charge, you should get a defense attorney on your side.
Contact our attorneys today for a free case evaluation and learn how we might help you.
503 PC — What Is Embezzlement?
California embezzlement law is listed under Penal Code Section 503. Embezzlement is defined as the “fraudulent appropriation of property by a person to whom it has been entrusted.” When a person is found guilty of embezzlement, he or she is punished according to the value of the property stolen as part of petty or grand theft.
If the property embezzled is worth more than $950 or is a firearm or automobile of any value, then it’s considered a form of grand theft and will be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony — a “wobbler crime” in California. A person can also be charged under Penal Code Section 504 if he or she is a government employee.
Embezzlement is not a minor offense by any definition. You want a defense team who will work diligently on your behalf. Our law firm handles all types of theft crimes, and we understand how these charges can affect you.
Types of Embezzlement
The term “embezzlement” when discussed in the media usually refers to large sums of money involving major corporations or businesses. However, there are other forms of embezzlement that can easily occur on an everyday level, such as when people misappropriate funds a little bit at a time.
In today’s digital world, many customers now have the option of having their receipt emailed or sent to their phone via text after making a purchase. When they decline a receipt altogether, if a cashier does not record the sale or records a lesser amount, the cashier can then pocket the difference. This crime of “pocketing” money is a form of embezzlement and carries the same kind of punishment.
This is also a type of fraud that occurs when a person takes money from a customer and pockets it. In order to cover this missing amount, the person takes part of the money that the next customer pays and applies it to cover the first account. This goes on to the third and fourth customers, and so on, to cover the missing money of the previous accounts.
Check kiting refers to a type of check fraud that occurs when a person has access to two different checking accounts and is writing bad checks during the “float time” it takes for checks to clear at the bank.
For example, a person who writes a check from an account with insufficient funds to deposit into another account takes advantage of the time it takes for the check to clear. In the meantime, the same person can write a second check to be deposited in the first account from the second account, making it look like there are sufficient funds. This results in an interest-free and illegal type of loan.
Employees who purposely input false data or numbers, create fake accounts or manipulate accounting numbers are all part of computer schemes that can be considered fraud.
CA Embezzlement Laws & Penalties
The penalty for embezzlement in California varies according to the value of the money or property taken from an employer. When less than $950 has been taken, the charge is considered petty theft and a person can face up to six months in jail in addition to fines.
Any value taken over $950 is considered grand theft. Grand theft can be charged if the amount taken over a 12-month period adds up to $950. It can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony. A conviction can result in up to two or three years in state prison and fines up to $10,000.
In addition, a judge is more likely to hand down a harsher sentence if the victim is an elderly or dependent due to a physical or mental impairment. This is referred to as an “aggravating factor” during sentencing for embezzlement charges. If this is the case, the person charged may also face another crime under California Penal Code 368. This elder abuse law covers abuse against any person age 65 or older, including financial exploitation or abuse.
A judge may also take into account a “mitigating factor” when imposing a sentence. A mitigating factor may result in a less harsh punishment if the person has voluntarily returned property embezzled. This is only applicable if this is done before being charged with embezzlement.
Legal Defenses to California Embezzlement Charges
A criminal defense attorney will try to reduce the charges against you or have them dismissed altogether. There has to be sufficient evidence that directly links you to the crime that has been committed. The prosecution must have a case that they can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that another person or party didn’t misrepresent themselves as you.
Every case is different and will require its own strategy for defense. If you want to discuss your case with one of our attorneys, contact our office today.
Embezzlement Frequently Asked Questions
Where is embezzlement most likely to happen?
This type of theft charge most commonly occurs within a business or corporation. Crimes can involve a person or persons taking small amount of money over time or a large amount of money all at once.
How can an employer search for evidence of embezzlement?
An employer can backtrack through their financial documents as far as they wish to investigate embezzlement. If the employer wishes to pursue a civil claim, there is a statute of limitations that applies.
Is there misdemeanor embezzlement?
Embezzlement is charged as a misdemeanor in California unless the amount taken is greater than $950. In cases where the amount is greater than this amount, the charge can be recorded as either a misdemeanor or felony.
What does vehicle embezzlement involve?
Vehicle embezzlement is when a person refuses to return a vehicle that doesn’t belong to them or tries to fraudulently alter the use of another person’s vehicle.
Why You Need a CA Embezzlement Attorney
You need a California embezzlement attorney who is familiar with all aspects of theft law and is also familiar with the court system on a state and federal level. Attorney Stephen Cline has over 20 years of experience as a criminal defense attorney. He holds a successful reputation within the San Diego legal community.
A criminal conviction can have serious implications on your life for years to come. If you or a loved one has been charged with an embezzlement crime, contact our law firm today. There is no obligation to discuss your case with an attorney. When you are charged with a crime, it is in your best interest to hire an attorney as soon as possible.