Embezzlement: Why you don’t dip your pen in the company ink
What is Embezzlement?
When people hear the word embezzlement, they tend to imagine sophisticated financial crimes committed by Wall Street elites and morally bankrupt banking CEOs. However, the legal definition of embezzlement is much broader than that and captures the conduct of regular everyday people.
The California Legislature defined embezzlement in Penal Code section 503, as “the fraudulent appropriation of property by a person to whom it has been entrusted.”
What’s the Worst that could happen?
Like most crimes involving the unlawful taking of property, the prescribed punishment depends on the value of the property taken. Penal Code section 514 states that “Every person guilty of embezzlement is punishable in the manner prescribed for theft of property of the value or kind embezzled”
- Embezzled property greater than $950: 1 year in county jail or 16 months or 2 or 3 years in state prison (felony or misdemeanor)
- Embezzled property less than $950: Up to 6 months in county jail and a fine not to exceed $1,000 (misdemeanor only)
Also, under Article I section 28 of the California constitution, any person convicted of a crime must be ordered to pay restitution to the victim. Restitution is the amount that the victim lost because of the alleged criminal conduct. So in addition to fines and jail, a person will generally be ordered to repay whatever the value that was allegedly taken.
What defenses are available?
To be convicted at a trial, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that
- An owner of the property entrusted her property to the defendant;
- The owner did so because she trusted the defendant;
- The defendant fraudulently used or took that property for her own beneﬁt AND
- When the defendant used or took the property, she intended to deprive the owner of the property or use of the property.
A person acts fraudulently when he or she takes undue advantage of another person (like their employer) or causes a loss to that person by breaching a duty, trust or conﬁdence. (A bank teller has a duty to accurately report all deposits and to not take the money. If the bank teller takes the money, they have likely committed an embezzlement)
Embezzlement is therefore a specific intent crime, meaning that the prosecutor must prove not only that you moved the property but that you did so that you could use it for your own gain.
It is a complete defense to this crime if a defendant did not have the required specific intent, or if the prosecutor is unable to prove one of the four essential elements of the crime. In either case, the defendant is entitled to a not guilty verdict.
What should I do if I am charged with Embezzlement?
You should immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney, like those at Manshoory Law Group, APC to assist you in analyzing the specific facts of your case, preparing and presenting defenses before and during trial, and making sure you understand your rights and helping you enforce them. The risks of an Embezzlement conviction are too great to go-it alone. Call now for a free consultation (877) 977-7750.