When people think of embezzlement, they generally think of a corporate officer stealing millions of dollars from company funds. Although this is true, there are many other ways one can be convicted of embezzlement. For example, taking money from deposits before bringing them to the bank or using a company credit card for non-related company expenses are also deemed embezzlement. These situations may seem much less severe than stealing millions, however, in California, being convicted of embezzlement secures consequences that will follow a person for the rest of their life.
What Is Embezzlement and How is it Proven?
Embezzlement is a specific form of theft or misappropriation of funds placed in one’s trust or belonging to one’s employer.
In California, there are four elements that the prosecution must prove to obtain an embezzlement conviction:
- The owner of the property entrusted the property to the defendant.
- The owner did this because he or she trusted the defendant.
- The defendant fraudulently used or converted that property in some way for his/her own benefit or gain.
- When the defendant used or changed the property, it was done with the intent to deprive the owner of that property’s use or value.
Embezzlement Charges and Penalties
Similar to many other theft crimes in California, Embezzlement is dependent of the value of what was taken and is charged and penalized in two ways:
- If the value of the embezzled item or money is $950 or less, the embezzlement is charged as petty theft, which is a misdemeanor, with a maximum sentence of 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
- If the value of the embezzled item or money is more than $950, the embezzlement is typically charged as grand theft, which is a felony, with a maximum sentence of 3 years in jail.
It is also important to note that a high-value charge of embezzlement can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony, however, it will generally be charged as a felony.
Defense for an Embezzlement Charge
Like stated previously, the prosecution must prove all four elements to secure an embezzlement conviction. Therefore, defenses for an embezzlement charge are aimed to flaw one or more of the four elements necessary to prove that embezzlement occurred. If one element is proven false, the entire embezzlement charge is false.
For instance, an employee has access to a company car by his employer and is told to only use it for work-related purposes. The employee uses the car and goes to a variety of locations that their employer deems non-work related and/or did not permit, therefore, they may try to charge that employee with embezzlement. If a defense lawyer can present that permission was given to that employee to use the car and the locations were actually for work, embezzlement did not occur.
Are You Facing Embezzlement Charges?
In each situation, there are specific circumstances that defense will depend on. For this reason, it is very important to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. If convicted of grand theft embezzlement, which is a felony, not only can you lose your job, you will eliminate numerous job opportunities in the future and take away your right to vote.
If you or a loved one are facing embezzlement charges, contact Premier Federal Criminal Defenders today. We have years of experience and many successfully won embezzlement cases under our belts. We will form the best possible defense strategy, protecting your freedom and future.