What are the Defenses to Embezzlement Under California Law? PC 503

January 21, 2023

Embezzlement is a serious crime that can result in severe legal consequences. It is defined under Penal Code 503 in California as the fraudulent conversion of property by a person in lawful possession of it. If the value of the property embezzled exceeds $950, the charge may be filed as either a felony or misdemeanor.

If you are facing embezzlement charges under PC 503, it is important to understand your legal options and defenses. The following are some of the most common legal defenses to embezzlement charges in California:

Lack of intent

One of the key elements of embezzlement is intent. The prosecution must prove that the accused intended to misappropriate funds or assets that were entrusted to them. If the defendant can show that they did not have the intent to embezzle, they may have a valid defense. For example, if an employee can show that they accidentally took company funds, they may not be guilty of embezzlement.

Lack of control

In order to be guilty of embezzlement, the accused must have been in lawful possession of the property in question. If the defendant can show that they did not have control over the funds or assets, they may have a valid defense.

Authorization

Another key element of embezzlement is that the funds or assets were taken without authorization. If the defendant can show that they had the authorization to take the funds or assets, they may have a valid defense. For example, if an employee can show that they were instructed to take company funds for a specific purpose, they may not be guilty of embezzlement.

Mistake of fact

The defense of mistake of fact is based on the idea that the defendant made an honest mistake and did not intend to embezzle. If the defendant can show that they believed they had a right to take the funds or assets in question, they may have a valid defense. For example, if an employee can show that they believed they were entitled to take company funds as part of their salary, they may not be guilty of embezzlement.

Duress

The defense of duress is based on the idea that the defendant was forced to commit the crime under threat of harm. If the defendant can show that they were threatened with harm if they did not take the funds or assets, they may have a valid defense. For example, if an employee can show that they were threatened with physical harm if they did not take company funds, they may not be guilty of embezzlement.

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It’s worth noting that embezzlement can be a complex crime with multiple elements, and the legal defenses available will depend on the specific circumstances of the case. It’s important to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can review the evidence against you, evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your case, and advise you on the best defense strategy.

If you’re being accused of embezzlement under PC 503, then call the Law Offices of John D. Rogers today. Contact us to schedule a free confidential consultation to discuss your options. Attorney John D. Rogers is a board-certified criminal law specialist by the State Bar of California. He routinely represents clients charged with embezzlement in both state and federal court.

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