Embezzlement seems like a crime that you only hear about on television and in movies, often only involving wealthy people and millions of dollars. In reality, embezzlement is a crime that can affect anyone. When you face charges for embezzlement it is important to understand that your future is on the line. A conviction for embezzlement can land you behind bars, require you to pay back the property you stole, and haunt you for the rest of your life. Call The Rodriguez Law Group today to set up a free consultation with one of our Los Angeles embezzlement attorneys. We will review the charges against you, explain your rights, and answer any questions you have.
- 1 What is Embezzlement?
- 2 Examples of Embezzlement
- 3 Penalties for Embezzlement
- 4 Defenses to Charges of Embezzlement in Los Angeles
- 5 Fighting Criminal Embezzlement Charges in Los Angeles
What is Embezzlement?
Embezzlement is a crime of theft. In order to commit the crime of embezzlement, you must be entrusted with another’s property, abuse your position or power or trust, and use that property for your own personal gain. Many associate embezzlement with wealthy people earning tons of money.
However, there is no requirement that you must steal a certain amount of money or property to be arrested for embezzlement. In fact, the value of the property you steal will actually dictate whether you are charged with petty theft embezzlement or grand theft embezzlement. Embezzlement is a form of petty theft when the value of the property you steal is less than $950 and a form of grand theft when the value of the property you steal is $950 or greater.
California Penal Code 503 PC
If you are charged with the crime of embezzlement in Los Angeles the prosecution will have to establish and prove each element of the crime, as listed in Penal Code 503 PC, to get a conviction. If they do not prove each element you cannot be convicted of the crime. Prosecutors trying your Los Angeles embezzlement case must prove:
- Someone entrusted you with their property;
- That person chose you because they trusted you;
- You fraudulently used that property for your own benefit; and
- When you used (or took) the property, you intended to deprive the owner of its use or enjoyment.
What does it mean to act fraudulently? In Los Angeles, you will be considered to have acted fraudulently when you “take undue advantage of another person” or cause another person to suffer a loss by “breaching a duty, trust, or confidence.” Embezzlement is all about trust. When you abuse a position of trust and take/use property that is not yours, your actions will be considered fraudulent.
Intent to Deprive
You must have an intent to deprive the property’s true owner of its use or enjoyment. This deprivation does not have to be permanent. Simply preventing another person from using and/or enjoying their property for a very short window of time is enough to satisfy the intent element of this crime. It is important to note that restoring the property you unlawfully take will not protect you from criminal charges. However, restoring property may help to reduce the harshness of the criminal sentence that may be imposed.
Examples of Embezzlement
Since embezzlement is a widely misunderstood crime, it can help to have a few examples of behavior that could be considered embezzlement.
- You work as an accountant for a small company and desperately need $200 to pay your rent this month. You take $200 from petty cash with the intent to pay it back when you can.
- You work as a bank teller and stick every fourth deposit made by a customer in your pocket.
- Your friend’s car broke down and he has no way to get to work. Since you work at a car rental company, you decide that it wouldn’t be a big deal if your friend “borrowed” one of the rental cars for a very short period of time and returned it before your boss found out.
As you can see, embezzlement does not necessarily have to involve money. You can face charges for embezzlement as long as you abuse your position of trust to take property having some intrinsic value.
Penalties for Embezzlement
Embezzlement, as defined in 503 PC, can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony in Los Angeles. The specific charges you will face will depend on a number of mitigating (helpful) and aggravating (harmful) factors, including:
- The value of the property you allegedly embezzled;
- The degree of harm suffered by your victim;
- Whether your victim was elderly or disabled;
- Your prior criminal history; and
- Whether you tried to return the property.
Petty Theft Embezzlement
Petty theft embezzlement – theft of property valued at less than $950 without aggravating factors – is a misdemeanor offense, punishable by:
- 6 months in a Los Angeles County jail;
- $1,000 in fines;
- Restitution, and/or
Grand Theft Embezzlement
You can face criminal charges for grand theft embezzlement when the property you take/use is (1) valued at more than $950, (2) a motor vehicle, or (3) a firearm. Grand theft embezzlement can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. The facts and circumstances of your specific crime will determine which charge you face. However, cases of embezzlement involving firearms will always be a felony in Los Angeles.
Misdemeanor grand theft embezzlement is punishable by:
- 12 months in a Los Angeles County jail;
- Fines of up to $1,000
- Restitution, and/or
Felony grand theft embezzlement is punishable by:
- 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in a California State prison;
- $10,000 in fines;
- Restitution; and/or
If your grand theft embezzlement involves extraordinarily large sums of money you may face additional criminal penalties for your actions. For example, embezzling property valued at $65,000 or more could add an additional year to your prison sentence, while embezzling property valued at $3.2 Million or more could add an additional four years to your prison sentence.
Defenses to Charges of Embezzlement in Los Angeles
You have the right to assert any legal argument that may explain, excuse, and/or justify your alleged criminal behavior. Successfully arguing these defenses will make it difficult for the state to build a strong case against you. Your attorney will use these legal arguments to secure a reduction or dismissal of the charges in your case. Defenses that may be argued in your embezzlement case include:
- You mistakenly believed you had a right to use or take the property;
- You have been falsely accused and/or mistakenly identified;
- You did not intend to take or use the property; and/or
- You had no intent to deprive the true owner of their property.
Fighting Criminal Embezzlement Charges in Los Angeles
Are you facing criminal charges for embezzlement in Los Angeles? Contact The Rodriguez Law Group today for immediate legal assistance. A conviction for embezzlement will be devastating for your future. Not only will you face time behind bars, but you will also be forced to adapt to life with a criminal record. When you have a criminal conviction for embezzlement employers will be hesitant to hire you if they do not believe that you are trustworthy. In some situations, a criminal conviction may also force you to give up any professional licenses you have. You can minimize the likelihood of suffering from these (and other) consequences by calling The Rodriguez Law Group for help.
Our team, led by former prosecutor Ambrosio E. Rodriguez, understands that your future is at stake. We will thoroughly investigate your alleged crime, determine weak points in the state’s case, and fight to secure the best possible outcome in your case. It is important to act quickly, so call our Los Angeles embezzlement attorneys today to set up a free consultation.