Handling White-Collar Criminal Defense in Fresno & Beyond
Under the California Penal Code Section 503, embezzlement is the fraudulent appropriation of property by a person to whom it has been entrusted, a crime that closely relates to theft. Embezzlement commonly occurs when someone who was trusted to manage or monitor someone else's money or property steals all or part of that money or property for the defendant's personal gain. The key is that the defendant had legal access to another's money or property, but not legal ownership of it.
If you have been accused or arrested for embezzlement, contact Martens & Brusseau Law Offices right away.
Proving Embezzlement Charges
To prove that a defendant is guilty of theft, prosecutors must prove that:
- An owner trusted his or her property to the defendant;
- The owner did so because he or she trusted the defendant;
- The defendant fraudulently converted or used that property for his or her own benefit by taking undue advantage of another person or causing a loss to that person by breaching a duty, trust, or confidence; and
- When the defendant converted or used the property, he or she intended to deprive the owner of its use.
Under California law, the penalties for embezzlement vary according to the type of property and value of the property.
The penalty scheme for embezzlement in the California Penal Code follows that of the theft charges:
- Embezzling property worth less than $950 is a misdemeanor, with a possible term of incarceration of six months or less, and a fine of up to $1,000.
- Embezzlement of property valued less than $50, the prosecutor may be charged as an infraction, carrying a penalty of a fine up to $250.
- Embezzlement of property more than $950 is classified as grand theft, carrying a potential sentence of up to one year.
- Similar to theft, embezzlement of certain items may carry a term of imprisonment of 16 months to 2 or 3 years.
Further, embezzlement involving certain conduct and victims may result in enhanced penalties. For example, a defendant convicted of embezzling public money may be subject to increased fines and penalties including repayment of the stolen property or funds, and between two and four years in prison. A defendant convicted during the same criminal trial of two or more felonies involving fraud or embezzlement, which in combination resulted in the loss to another person of more than $100,000, will be subject to a “white-collar crime enhancement.” Additionally, a person caring for an “elder or dependent person" who is in a special position of trust. California law considers embezzlement from an elder or dependent person an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes and imposes increased penalties for these crimes.
There are a number of potential defenses to embezzlement charges in California, which often center on the offender's intent or knowledge of their misconduct, particularly the requisite “intent to deprive.” A common strategy involves presenting evidence to counter the prosecution's case that the defendant was entrusted with the property on a temporary basis or that the defendant's alleged conduct was premised on taking unfair advantage or was conducted for the personal gain of the defendant.
If a prosecutor does not believe there is enough evidence to rebut these defenses in order to prove the defendant's guilt within a reasonable doubt at trial, the most likely outcome is that the case will be dropped or charges against the defendant will be reduced without a trial.
Contact the Law Offices of Christopher Martens
Regardless of whether or not the case proceeds to trial, the seriousness of an embezzlement charge in California requires the assistance of a skilled and committed Visalia embezzlement defense lawyer who knows every legal argument when defending clients.
If you have been arrested for the crime of embezzlement in Visalia, Fresno, or the surrounding areas, contact a skilled lawyer as soon as possible to protect your legal rights.