Posted on February 3, 2016
“Embezzlement” Charges | California Penal Code 503 PC
In California, Embezzlement is a theft offense charged under Penal Code 503 pc. This charge arises when you’ve been in a trusted position to possess or handle property or funds and you convert the property or monies to your own benefit with the intent to permanently deprive or deprive the owner for an extended period of time. The punishment for embezzlement, as will be discussed more in depth below, will depend on the amount of money or price of property you’ve been alleged to take. This article will address 9 important things you should know about embezzlement charges.
1. When Should I Retain an Embezzlement Lawyer?
The first step to a successful embezzlement defense is early intervention by an Embezzlement Defense Lawyer. The moment you suspect an investigation against you – whether it be with your employer or law enforcement – giving a statement to either can substantially limit your options in defending your charge(s) later in court, which is why you should retain an attorney at the investigations earliest juncture. Mr. Rogers will speak on your behalf, coordinate with you to preserve necessary evidence in the event a criminal case is filed, and submit notices to business and/or organizations to preserve critical evidence that could be useful in defending the charges. With the passage of time, the more liable exculpatory evidence can be lost or destroyed.
2. What is the Definition of Embezzlement?
PC 503 defines embezzlement as … “Embezzlement is the fraudulent appropriation of property by a person to whom it has been intrusted.”
3. What must the Prosecutor Prove for Embezzlement?
According to CALCRIM 1803, in order to prove that you’re guilty of Embezzlement under PC 503, the prosecutor must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
1. You were entrusted with property belonging to the owner or owner’s agent;
2. You were trusted by the owner or agent;
3. You converted or used the property for your own benefit;
4. Upon converting the property, you intended to permanently deprive the owner or removed it from the owner or agent for an extended period of time depriving the owner of a major portion of the value or enjoyment of the property.
4. What are the Legal Consequences for Embezzlement PC 503?
The punishment for this charge will depend whether you were convicted of a felony or misdemeanor. If convicted of a felony, you face a sentencing range of 16 months, two, or three years in county jail.
If you’re convicted of a misdemeanor, you face up to one year in the county jail. Additionally, embezzlement is a crime of moral turpitude. Consequently, a conviction will adversely affect your immigration status, and your ability to obtain or maintain state licensing.
5. What are the Legal Defenses to Embezzlement?
• You did not harbor the specific intent to deprive the owner of the property. All theft crimes, including embezzlement, require “specific intent,” thus if you took property on accident or had the intentions of returning within a short period, then you’re not guilty of this crime.
• The physical evidence obtained against you resulted in a violation of your search & seizure right under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This issue could arise with a defective search warrant, involuntary consent to search, or an illegal search requiring the approval of a warrant.
• The owner or agent of the owner gave consent for you to take the property. If you did not use fraudulent means to gain consent from the owner or agent, then you are not guilty of embezzlement.
• Your incriminating statements were illegally obtained by law enforcement in violation of your Miranda rights. This requires you to be subject to custodial interrogation by law enforcement.
• You were not in a trusted position as required under this statute.
• You did not deprive the owner of a major portion of enjoyment or you did not specifically intend to deprive the owner of a major portion of enjoyment.
6. Should I Speak with Law Enforcement?
Some of the most damaging evidence against you are your own incriminating statements to police. Believing that the judge or police will “go easy on you” in the event you’re upfront, honest, and confess to the charge(s) is a common misconception. Police investigate crime to convict suspects. Because proving you harbored the specific intent to commit embezzlement is more burdensome then most would expect, law enforcement strategically questions you to elicit that evidence – i.e., it’s difficult to prove someone else’s state of mind. Thus, if a police officer or a detective attempts to question you, politely decline to give a statement and demand the presence of a lawyer prior to answering any questions.
7. Can I Reduce my Felony to a Misdemeanor?
There are two remedies available to reduce your felony to a misdemeanor. First, since embezzlement is a non-violent crime, California’s Proposition 47 allows you to reduce your felony to a misdemeanor if the amount embezzled is at or under $950, you’re not a PC 290 registrant, and you haven’t been convicted of a “super-strike” offense in the past.
Second, embezzlement over $950 is a wobbler offense which means the prosecutor holds discretion when electing to charge you with a felony or misdemeanor if the amount exceeds $950. Fortunately, you may be eligible to reduce your felony to a misdemeanor pursuant to PC 17(b) upon successful completion of probation. It requires a specific petition combined with a detailed motion explaining the reasons why the judge should reduce your felony. Factors the judge will consider are:
• Your prior criminal history
• The planning and sophistication of your crime
• The amount taken from the owner
• Whether you suffered an probation violations
• The reason you’re seeking reduction – e.g., immigration, military, employment, etc.
If the court grants your reduction petition, then the felony conviction will be reduced to a misdemeanor. The conviction becomes a misdemeanor for “all purposes” and carries a fully restoration of your rights, including your right to own a firearm.
8. Embezzlement Expungement
If you suffer from an embezzlement conviction and the court placed you on probation, then you may be eligible to expunge your record under California Penal Code 1203.4. Certain conditions apply when seeking this remedy. For example, you must be completed with probation and you cannot have any cases pending against you. If the court grants your petition, the find of guilt in your case will be withdrawn and the case will be dismissed. Contact the Law Offices of John D. Rogers for more information about filing your expungement petition.
9. Free Criminal Defense Consultation
If you’ve been charged, arrested, or are under investigation for embezzlement under PC 503, contact an Embezzlement Defense Attorney at the Law Offices of John D. Rogers for a free confidential consultation.