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Embezzlement: What is the law and punishment?

California Penal Code 503 "Embezzlement" is a "wobbler' meaning it may be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony depending on the circumstances of the case and the criminal history of the defendant.  An embezzlement conviction can be an embarrassing charge to have on ones record that may impact future employment.  

What Must Be Proven in a Embezzlement Case?

PC 503 requires the following to be proven:

  1. A relationship of trust and confidence existed between the defendant and victim; 
  2. pursuant to that relationship the defendant accepted property entrusted to him or her by the victim; and
  3. with the specific intent to deprive the victim of his or her property, the defendant appropriated or converted it to his or her own use or purpose.

 The prosecution has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt that embezzlement has occurred.

What are the penalties for a Embezzlement?


 PC 503 as a misdemeanor has a maximum fine of up to $2,000 and/or up to 1 year in county jail.  


PC 503 as a felony has a maximum fine of up to $10,000 and/or up to 3 years in state prison or county jail if eligible under PC 1170(h).

What are the defenses to Embezzlement?

The defendant reasonably believed they had a right to the property

Miscommunications and assumptions can lead to a situation where the defendant reasonably believed the property was in fact theirs.  If the defendant believed the property had been lawfully purchased or the property was a gift and it was reasonable for a person to belief so than embezzlement has not occurred.  

The defendant did not intend to deprive the owner of the property

The prosecution must proof the defendant intended to deprive the owner of the property for some amount of time, even if brief.

The defendant is falsely accused of embezzlement

A co-worker, friend, or ex may falsely accuse a defendant of embezzlement.  If it can be proven that the alleged embezzlement did not actually take place, a defendant should not be found guilty of embezzlement.  

Bottom line, you need an experienced attorney who is willing to walk you through the entire process, evaluate your case effectively for weaknesses and exploit the issues in your case to achieve the best results.  The Law Offices of Steven McNicholl has that experience and will get you through your case in the best shape possible.

See also

PC 488 Petty Theft and Shoplifting

PC 487(a) Grand Theft 

PC 496 Receiving Stolen Property

Contact Us Today!

If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime, call the Law Offices of Steven McNicholl at (951) 405-0990. We have the skill and experience in San Bernardino County to protect your rights and get the best results in your case.

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