San Diego Criminal Attorney is a highly experienced law firm reputable for rendering criminal defense services. The law firm handles criminal cases such as embezzlement around the San Diego Area. Attorneys of this law firm have an unparalleled history of providing tailor-made defense expertise. Specifically, they have an established resume of successfully traversing through the ins and outs of an embezzlement case. People entrust ownership rights of either property or money to other people leading to alarming cases of embezzlement. The intent of defense attorney is to provide a legal defense to these charges, which are characterized by three elements: trust, fraud, and the intent to deprive ownership of someone's property.

Legal Definition of Embezzlement According to California Law

The definition of embezzlement in California is under Penal Code 503 Embezzlement Laws. As per the statute, embezzlement is the fraudulent and unlawful appropriation of property or funds belonging to someone else by a person to whom it has been entrusted. Violation of this provision cuts across both private and public entities. For instance, both private and public trustees violates the statute if they defraud their clients of large sums of money. 

On a smaller scale and in a number of small and medium-sized enterprises; Embezzlement could also involve small amounts of funds. Using someone elses' money in an unapproved manner that would signal any violation of the entrusting party's terms is defined as embezzlement. Intuitively, embezzlement charges would involve any amounts of borrowed money, property, or funds. The act could be initiated for the embezzlers own good, therefore placing the entrusting individual's assets into significant risk. Frequent concerns arise on what value of property or funds are considered in embezzlement charges. It is trivial that any unlawfully appropriated funds or property is embezzlement, regardless the value. A simpler example is where someone is entrusted with funds to take care of a child or an elderly person. The entrusted party may decide to use the funds for their own good. Thus, the person could be charged in violation of Penal Code 503 PC.

The Difference between Embezzlement and Theft

Embezzlement varies extensively with theft. Even though both offenses involve money, they are not differentiated depending on the valuation of misappropriated funds. Instead, they vary from the word ‘entrusted’ that legally defines an act of embezzlement. Penal Code 484 of California laws states that ‘any person liable of fraudulently appropriating funds that have been entrusted to him/her remain guilty of theft.'  Because of the position of trust, Penal Code 503 further categorizes the ‘entrusted theft' as a more severe and disastrous form of theft. 

The Conviction Process: What Must Be Proved for an Embezzlement Conviction?

Conviction of people accused of embezzlement begins by establishing the stages taken to defraud the property. An investigation must initially prove that a relationship exists between the defrauded party and the defendant. The jury and the prosecutor must also find proof that it was the defendant's intention to appropriate the funds. Apart from appropriating these funds, the court must also establish that the accused intended to use the funds for their own good.

The conviction of the accused would also depend on the circumstances surrounding the embezzlement. It is upon these base factors that the prosecutor files the case as either a felony or as a misdemeanor. A case that can be filed either as a misdemeanor or as a felony is referred to as a wobbler. The district attorney takes into consideration the criminal history of the accused, the value of the property and the situation surrounding the embezzlement. All of these factors help determine whether the case will be filed as a felony or as a misdemeanor. The district attorney also factors in the level of sophistication associated with embezzling the funds. Where the plan involved a huge amount of time invested in planning and littered with deceit, the attorney files the case as a felony.

Once a case is filed against you, your attorney will help alter the review stage. In case the district attorney has not yet filed the case, the embezzlement attorney may be able to convince the district attorney to file the case as a misdemeanor. Where it seems that being charged with a felony the accused will face a serious penalty, the attorney may persuade the jury with your personal records and a review about your life. If you have no previous criminal record, it is possible to detail the filing as a misdemeanor. In most cases, possibly all, early intervention is advantageous when suspected of criminal offenses. 

Chances also exist where you might not be guilty. A mistake on part of both parties perhaps resulted in the misunderstanding. A thorough defense would entail details that you were actually entitled to the property or in some way you believed you were entrusted with the rights. In such a case, a proof of criminal intention from the prosecution could easily be disapproved. A well-versed criminal defense attorney will go through all your records and any forensic evidence in order to mount a defense against embezzlement charges. This process is vital as it helps spot any pieces of inconsistencies and mistakes that would aid towards a case dismissal and a guilty plea.

Instances of Embezzlement under California Penal Code 503

The description of embezzlement that factors both names, ‘entrusted' and ‘unapproved usage' factors in many acts in its umbrella. For instance, one would be in violation of the California embezzlement statute by violating CA Penal Code 584 PC. The latter code, which is one form of Business and Professional Codes, governs the usage of funds and resources in an organization. Therefore, the simplest of deeds like using a company's vehicle to drive your wife to work could not only result in embezzlement charges but also violation of the Penal Code 584. Such would, however, be considered as a misdemeanor but still remains as a criminal offense. There are two instances of embezzlement deeds illustrated by examples below.

Instance One  

A financial system admin attached and entrusted to a commercial bank's centralized ledger may set up a program. Such a program would be meant for transferring a given amount of money per customer to his/her account. Despite the fact that the pinching from customers seems meager, the act still relates to the violation of Penal Code 584. The measly figures pinched also translate to a huge share on part of the system administrator. In such cases, the charges here may be filed as a felony. The first accusation point is that the small amounts of money do not belong to the system administrator. The act would, therefore, remain a criminal offense even where it remains undetected. Property trust, in this case, is given by the organization to an employee of the organization. Sometimes the trusteeship may be temporary or permanent. Temporary in the sense, that unlike the system admin, a car wash agency may be temporarily be entrusted with ownership rights of a vehicle in between the duration of cleaning the vehicle.

Instance Two

The second instance happens where a person entrusted with temporary rights to the assets of another like the case of the car wash agency. The agency could decide to either lend the car out to someone else, sell the car, use the car without approval from the owner, or remove a functional apparatus of the car and replace it with an old and cheaper version of it. Such acts would fall under Penal Code 503 and could be charged as an embezzlement misdemeanor.

Other Charges Related to Embezzlement 

There are five criminal offenses that relate to embezzlement. Their only variance is the element of trusteeship. Where the element of trusteeship is absent, the defendant may face any of the five possible charges. They include;

  1. Grand Theft. This offense is defined in Penal Code 487a. Grand theft is a more catastrophic form of theft that involves a huge valuation of property or money taken from someone without their knowledge. The value of property in question must exceed 950 dollars for a grand theft conviction. This offence is also a wobbler. It can, therefore, be convicted as a felony or a misdemeanor. Where the defendant is accused of grand theft as a misdemeanor, they can face up to one year of a county jail term plus a maximum fine of $1000. In the case of a felony, the conviction could be a sentence of up to three years and a maximum fine of $10, 000.

  2. Defined in Penal Code 459 PC, burglary occurs when a person breaks into someone's property and enters without prior authorization with the intention to commit a felony. The prosecutor's role while prosecuting a case of burglary relies on the evidence of breaking into a building, a room, a locked vehicle, or a commercial property with the intended purpose of committing theft. There are two cases of Burglary which comprise of first-degree burglary and second-degree burglary. A First-degree burglary sentence could go up to six years of imprisonment. The second degree has felony potential and could attract a sentence of up to three years. Burglary is also a wobbler crime that can be categorized either as a misdemeanor or a felony.

  3. Petty Theft under section 484 PC of California law is described as the act of taking an amount of money or property whose value is less than $950 without the owner's knowledge. If the theft involves livestock, then the value should not exceed $250. As a misdemeanor, petty theft usually attracts a maximum fine of $1000 and six months of jail term. The offense can also fall under an infraction when the value stolen is below 50 dollars. In such the latter case, the defendant would incur a 250 dollar fine.

  4. Under California Penal Code 470 PC, a forgery offense pertains massive lot of crimes. Forgery may translate to falsely impersonating a will, a check, or fraudulent insurance claims. The prosecutor should ascertain that the defendant intended to defraud the plaintiff through a forged document in writing that was altered to the advantage of the accused. The offense is a wobbler. As a misdemeanor, it could attract a maximum penalty of 364 days of jail term. A forgery misdemeanor occurs when the associated defrauded amount is less than $950. The felony could translate to a sentence of up to 16 months to three years of jail term. The accused need well-versed attorneys to successfully defend against forgery.

  5. Receiving Custody of Stolen Property. The act is described as a violation of Penal Code 496 PC and involves charges where someone has accepted custody of property that does not belong to them. The accusation would also entail whether the owner of the property had granted permission to have their property under the custody of the accused. The charges are frequent, but since prosecutors are not usually able to prove how the property was actually stolen, the law centers on who is in actual possession of the property after being stolen. Some jurisdictions could also charge the person in possession of stolen property with both theft and receiving stolen property.

Note that it is possible to be charged with two or more of these offenses, alongside an embezzlement charge. In such cases, the attorney would seek to reduce the charges, mostly, to avoid those charged as felony. 

Penalties for Embezzlement

Embezzlement is sometimes treated either as a grand theft offense or as a petty crime. Where the embezzled funds are less than a sum value of 950 dollars, the embezzlement is treated as a misdemeanor. The maximum jail term for a misdemeanor embezzlement offense is six months and a court fine not exceeding 1000 dollars. When the defrauded amount exceeds a valuation of 950 dollars, the criminal offense graduates to a wobbler. It means, henceforth, it will be charged as either a felony or as a misdemeanor. The crime at this point may attract a court sentence of up to three years of jail term. When the defrauded amount exceeds valuations of 65,000 dollars, the court may add a penalty of an additional year on top of the usual court penalty. When the amount is more than 3,200,000 dollars, an addition of four more years is added to the sentence.

Common Legal Defenses for Embezzlement

Embezzlement defense attorneys can launch defense strategies for the accused based on the following arguments:

  1. A claim of good faith that you had rights to the property. According to California laws, the defendant in a case of embezzlement is not guilty, if he/she believes in (good faith) that they had a right to the said property. The defense is dependent on the fact that the defendant did not conceal the act and did it in the most open light possible. The fact that the defendant did not take the property because the entrusting party owed him/her a debt would also contribute to this argument strategy.

  2. Lack of Criminal Intention on part of the accused. California law expects the prosecutor to show proof of evidence that the defendant intended to deprive off the plaintiff their property or its usage for a temporary duration. The biggest challenge to prosecutors in almost all criminal cases is to show proof of criminal intent. The long barrage of financial information and paper details associated with embezzlement charges show the degree of the cases. The proof of intention, therefore, serves as a perfect weakness for defense attorneys to take advantage of. This is because jurors believe that what might have served as a clear indication that the defendant had actually embezzlement, is just a statistical mistake.

  3. False Accusation. A massive number of false allegations are filed by attorneys on a daily basis. The accusations are even more common when it comes to embezzlement cases. Most defendants on the stand of these charges are either victims of an act of revenge or a blame game about a business deal gone wrong. Since the accused may be a person who had prior business or personal relationship with the accuser, it becomes easier to take advantage of the plea of trust. In this case, the accuser finds it an easy task to corner the defendant. On similar occasions as this, hiring an experienced defense lawyer is critical. Assistance from a team of investigators and seeking paralegal advice from the appropriate sources is important to pitch a successful defense. Armed with both, bringing the story to light could be an easy task.

How Do I Locate a San Diego Embezzlement Defense Attorney Near Me?

A successful embezzlement defense strategy calls for a well-versed criminal defense lawyer with a background in handling embezzlement cases. At San Diego Criminal Attorney, we have experienced attorneys with established resumes of negotiating the ins and outs of an embezzlement case and mounting a victorious criminal defense. We serve all clients in San Diego and surrounding areas. Call us at 619-880-5474 to speak to one of our embezzlement defense attorneys. Avoid the possibilities of a destroyed reputation arising from the unwillingness to launch a defense against the prosecution.