How Can I Fight Embezzlement Charges in California?
The best way to fight embezzlement charges in California is to enlist the help of an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
You are innocent until proven guilty. Therefore, the state has the burden of proving that you are guilty of embezzlement charges. However, fighting embezzlement charges requires that you present defenses that raise sufficient doubt about your guilt to obtain an acquittal.
Potential defenses to embezzlement charges include:
- You have been falsely accused
- You never intended to use or take the property in question
- The police officers have the wrong person (mistaken identity)
- You genuinely, but mistakenly, believed that you had the right to use or take the property
- You did not have any intent to deprive the owner of the property
- You had a good faith belief that the property belonged to you
- The owner of the property has never demanded that the property be returned
There could be other defenses available based on the circumstances and facts of your case. That is why it is essential to know how to build a strong defense against the embezzlement allegations. An embezzlement defense attorney can help you with the aspects of your case.
Do not let an honest mistake or error result in a criminal record and incarceration. Instead, hire a skilled criminal defense lawyer who can identify flaws and weaknesses in the state’s case.
How Does the Law Define the Crime of Embezzlement?
For you to be guilty of embezzlement, you must:
- Have been entrusted with property belonging to another person or party (fiduciary relationship)
- Fraudulently abused your power or trust to seize the property for your own personal gain or benefit
- Embezzled the property intentionally and consciously with the intent to deprive the property owner of the use or enjoyment of the property
There is no specific amount of money or property value that you must take to be charged with embezzlement. However, the value of the property directly impacts the criminal charge.
If the property value is under $950, the criminal offense is petty theft embezzlement. Grand theft embezzlement involves property worth over $950. Petty theft is charged as a misdemeanor; grand theft may be charged as a misdemeanor or felony.
What Are the Punishments for Embezzlement?
Aggravating circumstances can increase the penalties for embezzlement.
Assuming there are no significant aggravating factors, the potential punishment for petty theft embezzlement is:
- Up to six months in jail
- A fine of up to $1,000
- Restitution to the victim
The potential punishment for a conviction of grand theft embezzlement charged as a misdemeanor is:
- Up to one year in jail
- Up to a fine of $1,000 fine
- Summary probation
A conviction of grand theft embezzlement charged as a felony carries up to three years in prison, a fine of $10,000, and formal probation. Both charges may also result in restitution payments to the victim.
Is There a Way to Reduce the Charges Against Me?
Returning the property to the owner and making restitution before your hearing could lessen the harshness of your sentence.
As discussed above, there could be more than one potential defense in your case. Your lawyer analyzes the state’s evidence to give you an honest assessment of the case. If you are guilty of embezzlement and the state’s evidence is strong, you might want to discuss a plea deal.
Your attorney fights to have the embezzlement charges reduced so that you do not face the harshest penalties for embezzlement. The prosecutor may take plea bargaining more seriously when you allow your attorney to handle the negotiations.
If the state’s case is weak, the prosecutor may be willing to negotiate if they believe your lawyer is willing and ready to take the matter to court. In some cases, the prosecutor may view a plea to a lesser criminal charge as a “win” instead of taking the case to trial and potentially losing.
What Else Do You Need to Know About Embezzlement in California?
A conviction for embezzlement has long-term consequences. You will have a criminal record that will follow you for the rest of your life. A felony conviction could impact your civil rights, including the right to own a firearm.
An embezzlement conviction may have a significant negative impact on your future career choices. You may not qualify for some government benefits, and it might be challenging to find housing when you are released from prison.
You need to fight these criminal charges aggressively with the help of a skilled embezzlement defense attorney. Your future depends on the decisions you make today regarding your criminal case.