Embezzlement

California Penal Code Section 503 – Embezzlement

The white collar crime of “embezzlement” is defined under California Penal Code Section 503. It’s described as the fraudulent appropriation of property by someone whom was entrusted and is commonly known as employee theft. The primary difference between embezzlement and other common types of theft crimes is the legal requirement that the property that was taken had been entrusted to you by the owner. You can’t be convicted of embezzlement unless you possessed property you were given authority to access in the first place.

It’s a common myth that embezzlement cases always involve large amount of money taken by top management personnel in big companies. In fact, most embezzlement cases in Los Angeles County are filed against a wide variety of individuals who were placed in a position of trust in small companies and involve small amounts of money. However, there are some large scale embezzlement cases that involve sophisticated Ponzi schemes.  It’s important to note here you can still be arrested and convicted of Penal Code 503 embezzlement if you never had intent to permanently keep the property, but only to borrow it temporarily.

A common example of an embezzlement case in Los Angeles County includes a situation where an employee of a company was trusted to take the daily cash earnings to the bank and make a deposit. However, the employee had huge personal debts and started taking some of the cash earnings for himself, but did genuinely intend to pay it back. In this example, they could be convicted of PC 503 embezzlement due to the fact they unlawfully took possession of the company earnings that were entrusted to him. Again, the fact they had intent to pay it back in not a valid legal defense. The legal penalties for an embezzlement conviction can be harsh.

If you have been accused of Penal Code 503 embezzlement, you should consult with our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys at the Goldstein law Group to review the details of your case. Let’s take a closer examination of the legal definition, penalties, and potential defenses below.

Legal Definition on Penal Code 503 Embezzlement

California Penal Code Section 503 has a very straightforward legal definition of embezzlement as follows:

“Embezzlement is the fraudulent appropriation of property by a person to whom it has been entrusted”

This rather simple definition of embezzlement involves specific elements of the crime. This means the Los Angeles County prosecutor must be able to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, certain facts in order to obtain a conviction. The elements of the crime for PC 503 embezzlement include the following:

  • The owner entrusted their property to you
  • The owner only did so because they trusted you
  • You fraudulently converted or used owner’s property for your own benefit
  • When you acted, your intent was to deprive the owner of the property’s use

Remember, there must have be a relationship of trust. Typically, you were the owner’s employee or part of management who was given the right to handle property or money. Embezzlement occurs when you fraudulently use the property for your own personal benefit. You act in a fraudulent manner when you take advantage of someone else or cause loss to the owner by violating the trust or confidence they gave you.

It’s important to note you can’t be convicted of California Penal Code 503 embezzlement unless you used the property in a manner that brought you some type of benefit. Finally, you must have had intent to deprive the owner of the property or use of it, even if it was only temporary. This means “intent” is a key element in any embezzlement case.

Legal Penalties for Penal Code 503 Embezzlement

If you are convicted on PC 503 embezzlement, the legal penalties will depend on the value of the embezzled property.  In California, embezzlement is a form of Penal Code 484a petty theft or Penal Code 487 grand theft. If the total value of the property taken was $950 or less, it’s a misdemeanor crime with a sentence of up to one year in a Los Angeles County jail and fine up to $1,000. If the total value of the property exceeds $950, it’s a “wobbler,” meaning the Los Angeles County prosecutor can charge the case as either a misdemeanor or felony offense. A felony conviction carries up to 3 years in a California state prison and a fine up to $10,000.

If the value of the property exceeds $65,000, it’s a felony case that carries an additional one year on your sentence.  If the amount exceeds $200,000, an additional two years. If it exceeds $1,300,000, and additional three years. If the value of the embezzled property exceeds $3,200,000, and additional four years can be added to the sentence. Finally, there are certain aggravating factors where the Los Angeles County judge will likely give you are harsher sentence. For example, if the victim was elderly or someone with a mental or physical impairment.

Related Offenses for Penal Code 503 Embezzlement

California Penal Code Section 484(a) – Petty theft
California Penal Code Section 487 – Grand theft
California Penal Code Section 470 – Forgery
California Penal Code Section 459 – Burglary
California Penal Code Section 424 – Misappropriation of Public Funds
California Penal Code Section 496(a) – Receiving Stolen Property

Legal Defenses for Penal Code 503 Embezzlement

If you are facing PC 503 embezzlement charges, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers can use a variety of legal strategies to obtain the best possible outcome. Every case will have unique circumstances and evidence that will require a close review of the details. However, the most common legal defenses include the following:

Lack of intent: In some cases, our attorneys might be able to argue that you didn’t have the specific intent to deprive the owner of their property or use it for your own benefit, which is one of the important elements of the crime. Criminal intent can often be difficult to prove, especially in an embezzlement case.

Good faith belief: In certain embezzlement cases, our criminal attorneys may be able to argue you had a good faith belief that you were acting with the owner’s permission to their property, even if it turned out to be a mistaken belief later. In other words, you had a reasonable belief you had a right to the the property. Of course, for this defense to apply, you would not have attempted to conceal your actions.

False Allegation: We could also possibly argue the embezzlement charges are based upon false accusations and misleading evidence. For example, maybe the alleged victim falsely accused you because they were motivated by anger, revenge, or jealously. Perhaps, the victim simply made a mistake about the property being taken or who took it. Of course, our goal is to cast reasonable doubt. If successful, you have a good chance at a favorable outcome.

Contact our Criminal Defense Law Firm

If you are facing allegation of committing embezzlement in violation of California Penal Code Section 503, you should remain silent and contact our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers at the Goldstein Law Group. We have a track record of success in all types of white collar crimes and will work aggressively to obtain the best possible outcome. We serve clients throughout Los Angeles County from our Hollywood office located at 1645 Vine St #809 Los Angeles, CA 90028. Contact us at 323-461-2000 to review the details of your embezzlement case.