If you have been accused of embezzlement, our goal is always the complete dismissal of all charges. If this isn’t possible, we often negotiate solutions for our clients that allow them to avoid jail and sometimes even prosecution.
Embezzlement is a crime under Penal Code 503 PC in California. There is a serious stigma attached to this offense and a charge may affect your future, including your chances of employment – if you have been accused of embezzlement, you should contact Summit Defense Attorneys immediately to discuss your case with one of our experienced attorneys.
Embezzlement is actually a specific form of theft or fraud. This means that it is charged under Penal Code 487 as a kind of grand theft, or Penal Code 488 as a kind of petty theft, depending on the value of the property concerned.
You might have heard embezzlement referred to as a ‘white-collar’ crime – this is because employees or other professionals usually commit it. What makes embezzlement different to other kinds of theft offenses is that it involves property that has been entrusted to someone. This aspect is clearly outlined in the definition of embezzlement – the Penal Code defines embezzlement as unlawfully taking the property of someone else by the person to whom it has been entrusted.
If you are accused of embezzlement, it means that you are being accused of taking property that you already lawfully had in your possession, or that you had access to. For example, a cashier in a store has access to the money in the register but it is not theirs. If they take money from the register, then that could be embezzlement.
Yes – depending on what stage your case it at, and the exact nature of the accusations against you, an attorney may be able to help you reach an out-of-court, civil compromise. At Summit Defense, our goal is always the compromise or full dismissal of charges, so you can feel confident that we will fight hard to get you the best result possible.
It is essential, however, to try to settle any matter as soon as possible, and certainly before charges are filed. Your best chance of doing this is with the assistance of a lawyer who has experience in these kinds of cases. Summit Defense Attorneys include a former District Attorney, former investigator, and former police officer – meaning they have their own experience in investigating these kinds of matters and know how things work from the other side. This means you will have powerful and persuasive negotiators with a full range of experience on your side.
Yes, you do. Not only is it your right, but your best chance of fighting the case against you is by having an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side. Summit Defense Attorneys has handled many cases of high-dollar embezzlement allegations that never saw the inside of a courtroom – we are your best chance of making sure that you can avoid court too.
Any criminal accusation is a serious matter and, in the case of embezzlement, may have consequences for the rest of your life. If you are facing an accusation of embezzlement, contact Summit Defense Attorneys as soon as possible for a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.
Anyone can be charged with this offense. However, because of the ‘trust’ element of the offense, it is usually people such as employees, those involved in running companies, and other professionals, who find themselves facing embezzlement charges.
Keep in mind that any level of employee or professional can be charged with embezzlement—from the directors of large companies to casual sales staff. Whoever you are and whatever position you hold, you should take any accusation or charge of embezzlement seriously, and contact Summit Defense Attorneys for advice immediately.
Nothing – you only have to tell them your name and address, and show some identification if requested. Other than that, it’s best to not say anything at all to the police – your lawyer will speak for you. If you are arrested, you or your family should contact Summit Defense Attorneys immediately – in an emergency, we’re available to help you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
When you are arrested, the police are required to tell you about your rights. These include your right to silence, and your right to a lawyer. These rights are important and you should take full advantage of them. Being charged and going through the arrest process can be a scary and intimidating process, and it’s natural for you to want to defend or explain yourself. Keep in mind, though, that nothing you say at that point is likely to stop the police from charging you. Your best chance of presenting a good defense is by remaining silent and consulting a lawyer as soon as you can. Summit Defense has defended thousands of cases and it has never, ever helped someone when they’ve spoken to the police – in fact, many people have hurt they cases by doing so. The early intervention of an experienced attorney from Summit Defense is by far your most effective defense strategy.
When you have your first consultation with an attorney from Summit Defense, we will discuss the estimated cost of your case with you. Every case is considered on a case-by-case basis, and depends on various factors, such as the seriousness of the charges against you and the stage that the case is up to. At Summit Defense, we will always act in your best interests, and that means keeping costs as reasonable as possible while defending your matter to the full. One thing is for certain though – the sooner you have an attorney involved in your case, the better. With early intervention, we can do our best to reach an early resolution and keep your case out of court, which also reduces your legal fees dramatically! Call one of our attorneys today to set up your first, free consultation.
Like most criminal cases, the most common way to beat an Embezzlement charge is by arguing that the state can’t prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt with the available admissible evidence. This evaluation of what evidence is admissible and what evidence is excluded is technical and requires an understanding of California evidence codes and crafting of an argument that can apply these codes to the facts of your case.
No – at first, you will probably not go to jail. If you have been accused of embezzlement, and it looks like you might be facing an arrest and jail, we can usually make arrangements in advance that will help you to avoid having to go into custody.
If you are arrested, the police will initially take you into custody and to the police station for processing. Once you have been processed at the station, you will likely have a chance to pay an amount to secure bail from the station itself. In many cases, we will be able to ensure you are released on your own recognizance or on minimal bail.
Only in the most serious of cases or if you do have a criminal history will you possibly be kept in custody until you are taken before a judge and given a chance to apply for bail. At this stage of the process, your best chance of avoiding jail is to have Summit Defense Attorneys on your side. As embezzlement is a non-violent offense, and many people accused of embezzlement have no criminal histories, we are usually able to ensure release on your own recognizance or on very modest bail. We’ve been successful in getting many clients accused of embezzlement of over half a million dollars released on these terms.
If you are arrested, you should contact Summit Defense Attorneys immediately so we can assist you in securing your release. As highly experienced defense lawyers, we have helped hundreds of clients get bail, and will put together the best case possible to present to the court at your bail hearing.
In California, embezzlement can be treated as either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances of the case and also, sometimes, the criminal history of the person being accused.
As a form of theft, embezzlement is charged under Penal Code 484 theft. If you are accused of embezzling property worth $950 or less, then you will be charged with Penal Code 488 petty theft, which is a misdemeanor. The possible penalties for a misdemeanor are lower than for a felony and can be reduced substantially with the assistance of an experienced lawyer.
If you are accused of embezzling property worth more than $950, you will be charged with Penal Code 487 grand theft. Grand theft is a “wobbler”, which means that it can be treated as either a felony or a misdemeanor. The prosecution will determine how you will be charged depending on the circumstances and seriousness of the case, as well as any criminal history that you may have. The penalties and consequences that result from being convicted of a felony can be quite serious. If you are charged with felony embezzlement, contact Summit Defense Attorneys to discuss your options to reduce or dismiss the charges, and to fight for the best result possible.
Under California embezzlement law, there are specific elements of the charge that the Prosecution needs to prove in order to secure a conviction. Where you are facing an embezzlement charge in California, the Prosecutor will need evidence to prove these four things beyond a reasonable doubt:
This means that the Prosecutor must prove that you and the victim were in a relationship that involved the victim trusting you and having confidence in you. If that relationship cannot be proved, then there might be a case of theft, but a charge of embezzlement cannot be supported.
If you think of the relationships between employer and employee, or doctor and patient, you can appreciate that these are common relationships that do involve a significant element of trust.
In this second element of the offense, the Prosecutor needs to prove that you were entrusted with property that was not yours, but belonged to the victim. It needs to be shown that you were trusted with the property because of that relationship of trust between you and the victim.
To be entrusted with the victim’s property means that you have been given the property to use in a certain way, or to do something that the owner wants you to do. The other side of the coin is that you cannot do something for yourself with the property, take it for yourself, or use it for your own purposes.
Some common examples of people entrusted with property include shop assistants who are entrusted with the goods in the store, as well as the cash that they might receive from customers. Or, a secretary who is given a company credit card and told to book flights with it or to use it to purchase supplies for the company. If the shop assistant takes goods for themselves without paying, or takes money from the store, then they have embezzled that property. Similarly, if the secretary uses the company credit card to purchase something for himself or herself, then they may also be guilty of embezzlement.
To take something fraudulently means to take advantage of someone, or to cause a loss to them, by breaching a duty, or their trust or confidence – you can see how this relates to the two previous elements of an embezzlement charge. Under the law of embezzlement in California, if you use someone else’s property for your own benefit, that is also considered to be fraudulently taking it.
This is the final element to be proved in an embezzlement case, and there are a couple of things to understand. Firstly, the Prosecution has to prove that you had the specific intent to deprive the owner (the victim) of their property. Secondly, they do not have to prove that you intended to take the property permanently – it is enough if they prove that you intended to deprive the owner of it even temporarily.
This is easy to understand if you think of the example of a shop assistant in a clothing boutique – if he takes a jacket from the store to wear to dinner that evening without paying for it or asking the owner of the store, even if he intends to return the jacket in perfect condition to the store the next day, he has still deprived the owner of the property temporarily. This means that the shop assistant could be guilty of embezzlement.
There are many defenses that can be used to fight an embezzlement charge. But don’t forget that early intervention is your best ‘defense’ – dealing with an accusation before charges are filed is the best approach, and something Summit Defense specializes in.
Once the police have become involved, however, defending a criminal charge can become a difficult and complex matter, so your best chance of beating an embezzlement charge is to have an experienced attorney fighting for you. If you want to defend an embezzlement charge, contact Summit Defense Attorneys now to speak with an attorney who will be able to fight for you.
Perhaps you have been falsely accused, or perhaps someone else did it, or the evidence that the Prosecution has is wrong or misleading – whatever the case, we can help. Summit Defense will investigate the case further, closely examine the evidence that the Prosecution intend to use against you, and find any holes in their case.
This kind of defense is known as a ‘claim of right’. This means that you believed that you had a rightful claim to the property. It doesn’t matter if your belief was wrong or unreasonable; to successfully raise this defense you just have to show that you held the belief in good faith. One of the most important ways of demonstrating your good faith belief is that you were open about your claim to the property, and didn’t try to conceal it.
Consider the example of the shop assistant who borrows a jacket from the store he works in, to wear to dinner one night. Say that there was a conversation with the shop assistant’s supervisor, the manager of the store, where the manager told the shop assistant that the owner didn’t have a problem with the staff occasionally borrowing clothing to try or wear overnight, as long as it was returned the next day, and still in perfect condition. If the shop assistant believed the manager, and therefore thought it was okay to borrow the jacket, then he could assert a claim of right defense to a charge of embezzlement.
This is a defense where you assert that you did not have the intent to deprive the owner of their property or to use it for your own purposes. In fact, it might be that you were actually doing something to benefit the owner or to enhance the property.
For example, think of the shop assistant working in a clothing boutique. A person browsing in the store one day spills coffee on one of the jackets, and the assistant takes the jacket to be dry-cleaned. He doesn’t tell the owner about this because he is afraid he’ll get into trouble for allowing a customer to be in the store with coffee. When the owner notices the jacket is missing, the shop assistant is accused of embezzlement. However, he actually had no intent to deprive the owner of the jacket, or even to use it for his own purposes, so he is not guilty.
These sections of the California Penal Code relate specifically to embezzlement by contractors and other people who receive funds to pay for labor, services, materials, or equipment.
This means that it is considered embezzlement if you receive money for the purpose of paying for work to be done on a project, or for supplies or equipment, and you do not use the money for that purpose but:
It is also a crime to use a false voucher to obtain construction loan funds, and to not use those funds for the purpose stated.
This section covers embezzlement by bailees, tenants, lodgers, and anyone with a power of attorney that relates to the sale or transfer of property. It is illegal for these people to fraudulently take, or use for their own benefit, property that has been entrusted to them. This does not mean, for example, that a tenant in a rental property that has a washing machine provided in the laundry cannot use the machine to wash their clothes, but it does mean that they cannot sell it.
A bailee is someone who has someone else’s property in their possession, such as for safekeeping, repair, or because they are borrowing it. If you give your car to a mechanic to repair, for example, and she uses it for a couple of days to run her own personal errands, then she is guilty of embezzling your car.
The penalties for embezzlement differ in California based on the circumstances of the offense. Further, when sentencing, the judge will take into account various personal factors as well as your criminal history. The penalty that you receive for embezzlement can vary widely, depending on the case you are able to put before the judge.
To put your best case forward, you should have an experienced attorney who is able to advise you and plan your strategy right from the start of your case through until the end. Early intervention is key, and at Summit Defense, our ultimate goal is always the complete dismissal of charges against you. Even if dismissal is not possible, we will be able to help you achieve the most lenient penalty for your case, and avoid jail time wherever possible.
If you are convicted of grand theft embezzlement under Penal Code 487 as a felony, then you could face a sentence of up to one to three years in prison, and a fine of maximum $10,000. If you are convicted of grand theft embezzlement as a misdemeanor, however, you face up to one year in prison and a maximum fine of $1,000. Remember that, with the early intervention of an attorney from Summit Defense, we may be able to ensure that your grand theft embezzlement charge is dealt with as a misdemeanor and not a felony.
If you are convicted of embezzlement as petty theft under Penal Code 488, this is a misdemeanor, and you could face up to six months in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. An important aspect of the sentencing law to keep in mind here is that if the property embezzled was valued at $50 or less, and you have no previous theft-related convictions, then your Summit Defense attorney may be able to persuade the Prosecutor to use their discretion to reduce the charge to an infraction and have you only pay a maximum $250 fine.
There are also more serious penalties applicable to cases where people have embezzled more than once over a period of time from their employer. Even if you embezzled small amounts, if they add up to $950 or more over a 12-month period, then you will be charged with grand theft embezzlement, and subject to those more serious penalties. In some cases, though, the Prosecutor might still try to treat each instance as a separate charge and therefore expose you to a higher penalty overall. If you are accused of embezzling repeatedly from your employer, you should contact Summit Defense Attorneys for assistance immediately so we can help you navigate this complex area of the law and ensure that any potential sentence is reduced as much as possible.
In cases where the amount embezzled is very high, the law considers those to be aggravated offenses. This means that they are treated more seriously. In the case of a white collar crimes like embezzlement, more serious penalties apply where the amount of property concerned is $65,000 and above. If you are charged with embezzling $65,000 or more, then you are exposed to a sentence of an additional one-year in prison, which would be served consecutively – which means on top of any other sentences. Further, the additional sentence can be up to four years if the property embezzled was worth $3,200,00 or more. Obviously, these are very serious penalties and you should contact Summit Defense Attorneys immediately if you are subject to such charges so we can help you to reduce any eventual sentence or avoid jail time altogether.
In any kind of case, the judge will consider the circumstances of each specific case before passing sentence. Some of the things that the judge will consider are known as aggravating and mitigating circumstances – these are factors that might either increase (aggravate) or decrease (mitigate) the eventual sentence. There are some common factors that occur in many embezzlement cases – for example, if you pay back the money or replace the property, then that would be taken into account as a mitigating circumstance. On the other hand, if you embezzle from a “dependent person” – that is, from someone who is dependent on you, such as someone you are paid to care for – then that would be taken into account as an aggravating circumstance. An experienced attorney will best know how to put together a positive case on sentencing that brings together as many mitigating circumstances as possible, and reduces the negative effect of any aggravating circumstances.
There can be serious repercussions, beyond facing criminal penalties, if you are convicted of embezzlement. That is why at Summit Defense Attorneys, our first and foremost goal is always the complete dismissal of all charges.
If you are convicted of embezzlement, your immigration status could be affected, and your chances of future employment may be seriously damaged. If you want to try to avoid these very serious consequences, you should get legal advice and assistance at the earliest opportunity. Contact Summit Defense Attorneys to discuss your case in full, and how we can help you try to avoid any negative consequences.
Unfortunately, returning the money or property is not enough to avoid a charge of embezzlement altogether once the Police are involved. However, there are several options that may help to reduce your exposure to criminal penalties that we can help you with. If you have been accused of embezzling and have returned the money, or are thinking about it and intending to, then contact Summit Defense Attorneys immediately so we can assist you and make sure that your rights and interests are fully protected.
Firstly, if the Police are yet to be involved, we can help you negotiate with the person making accusations against you, and achieve a civil, out-of-court settlement that will avoid the criminal justice system altogether.
Even after the Police have become involved, we can assist you in reducing the penalty you might face substantially, or even altogether. If nothing else, returning the money can demonstrate to the court that you are sorry for what you did and have tried to make things right – and the judge will take such action into account in any sentencing decision.
Finally, Section 1378 of the Penal Code gives the judge discretion to stay the prosecution against you and discharge the charges, in the event that you fully compensate the victim and pay all costs. It can be difficult to convince a judge to take this course of action, but with an experienced attorney from Summit Defense on your side, you’ll be in a position to present the strongest case possible.
You should contact Summit Defense Attorneys to discuss the accusations immediately – depending on the accusations and any actions that your boss has already taken, we can advise you on how best to proceed.
In most cases, you should keep going about your work as normally as you can, unless your boss has asked you to leave the workplace. You should not agree to engage in any conversations that might be recorded without the assistance of a lawyer, and you should not sign any documents that you do not understand or that you have not first had your lawyer read.
Keep in mind that, in may cases, your employer might not tell you about their suspicions or come to you first – they may go straight ahead and call the Police. They might also withhold your wages while they investigate any accusations against you. A Summit Defense attorney can advise you of your rights in this kind of situation.
It may be a defense, depending on what you used the credit card for. If you are accused of embezzlement involving the use of a credit card, you should not make any statements to your employer or the Police about the card or what you may have used it for without first speaking to an attorney. The lawyers at Summit Defense are available to give you advice at any time – they will fully examine any accusations and discuss all possible avenues of defense with you.
Again, it may be a defense to a charge of embezzlement if your name is on the credit card – but it ultimately depends on what you used the credit card for. If you are accused of embezzlement involving the use of a credit card, you should not make any statements to your employer or the Police about the card or what you may have used it for without first speaking to an attorney. The lawyers at Summit Defense are available to give you advice at any time – they will fully examine any accusations and discuss all possible avenues of defense with you.
It is not uncommon for employers to try to make a scapegoat of people that they accuse of embezzlement. In our years of experience at Summit Defense, we have seen many cases where employers have accused people of embezzling more than they actually did, or even had the opportunity to. In these kinds of situations, we are able to speak with the employer and encourage them to be reasonable, and to settle the matter out of court.
In the event that charges are filed, then yes, the Prosecution do have to prove the amount of money or property that you took. The amount of money or property concerned is important, as it determines how serious the charge against you is, and can effect whether you are charged with either a felony or a misdemeanor.
If you think that you have been charged with embezzling more money or property than you did, then the Police may have made a mistake that could seriously affect the outcome of your case. We want to make sure that the Prosecution ‘play fair’ – you should get in touch with an attorney at Summit Defense Attorneys immediately so we can thoroughly review the evidence against you, and ensure that only those charges that can be backed up by proper and admissible evidence are filed against you.
 California Penal Code 503 states – “Embezzlement is the fraudulent appropriation of property by a person to whom it has been intrusted.”
 California Penal Code 1377 – “When the person injured by an act constituting a misdemeanor has a remedy by a civil action, the offense may be compromised, as provided in Section 1378, except when it is committed as follows:
(a) By or upon an officer of justice, while in the execution of the duties of his or her office.
(c) With an intent to commit a felony.
(d) In violation of any court order as described in Section 273.6 or 273.65.
(e) By or upon any family or household member, or upon any person when the violation involves any person described in Section 6211 of the Family Code or subdivision (b) of Section 13700 of this code.
(f) Upon an elder, in violation of Section 368 of this code or Section 15656 of the Welfare and Institutions Code.
(g) Upon a child, as described in Section 647.6 or 11165.6.
 Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions, Instruction 1806 reads (in part): “To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the People must prove that:
[or the owner’s agent]
entrusted (his/her) property to the defendant;
[or owner’s agent]
did so because (he/she) trusted the defendant;
3. The defendant fraudulently (converted/used) that property for (his/her) own benefit;
4. When the defendant (converted/used) the property, (he/she) intended to deprive the owner of (it/its use).”
 Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions, Instruction 1806 reads (in part): “A person acts fraudulently when he or she takes undue advantage of another person or causes a loss to that person by breaching a duty, trust or confidence.”
 California Penal Code 511 reads (in part): “Upon any indictment for embezzlement, it is a sufficient defense that the property was appropriated openly and avowedly, and under a claim of title preferred in good faith, even though such claim is untenable.”
 California Penal Code 484b reads (in part): “Any person who receives money for the purpose of obtaining or paying for services, labor, materials or equipment and willfully fails to apply such money for such purpose by either willfully failing to complete the improvements for which funds were provided or willfully failing to pay for services, labor, materials or equipment provided incident to such construction, and wrongfully diverts the funds to a use other than that for which the funds were received, shall be guilty of a public offense”.
 California Penal Code 484c reads: “Any person who submits a false voucher to obtain construction loan funds and does not use the funds for the purpose for which the claim was submitted is guilty of embezzlement.”
 California Penal Code 507 reads: “Every person intrusted with any property as bailee, tenant, or lodger, or with any power of attorney for the sale or transfer thereof, who fraudulently converts the same or the proceeds thereof to his own use, or secretes it or them with a fraudulent intent to convert to his own use, is guilty of embezzlement.”
 California Penal Code 489 reads: “489. Grand theft is punishable as follows: (a) When the grand theft involves the theft of a firearm, by imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months, two, or three years. (b) In all other cases, by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year or pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.”
California Penal Code 672 reads: “Upon a conviction for any crime punishable by imprisonment in any jail or prison, in relation to which no fine is herein prescribed, the court may impose a fine on the offender not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000) in cases of misdemeanors or ten thousand dollars ($10,000) in cases of felonies, in addition to the imprisonment prescribed.”
 California Penal Code 490 reads: “Petty theft is punishable by fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or both.”
 California Penal Code 490.1 reads: “(a) Petty theft, where the value of the money, labor, real or personal property taken is of a value which does not exceed fifty dollars ($50), may be charged as a misdemeanor or an infraction, at the discretion of the prosecutor, provided that the person charged with the offense has no other theft or theft-related conviction. (b) Any offense charged as an infraction under this section shall be subject to the provisions of subdivision (d) of Section 17 and Sections 19.6 and 19.7. A violation which is an infraction under this section is punishable by a fine not exceeding two hundred fifty dollars ($250).”
 California Penal Code 487 reads (in part): “Grand theft is theft committed in any of the following cases:
… (3) Where the money, labor, or real or personal property is taken by a servant, agent, or employee from his or her principal or employer and aggregates nine hundred fifty dollars ($950) or more in any 12 consecutive month period.”
 California Penal Code 12022.6 reads (in part): “ (a) When any person takes, damages, or destroys any property in the commission or attempted commission of a felony, with the intent to cause that taking, damage, or destruction, the court shall impose an additional term as follows: (1) If the loss exceeds sixty-five thousand dollars ($65,000), the court, in addition and consecutive to the punishment prescribed for the felony or attempted felony of which the defendant has been convicted, shall impose an additional term of one year. (2) If the loss exceeds two hundred thousand dollars ($200,000), the court, in addition and consecutive to the punishment prescribed for the felony or attempted felony of which the defendant has been convicted, shall impose an additional term of two years. (3) If the loss exceeds one million three hundred thousand dollars ($1,300,000), the court, in addition and consecutive to the punishment prescribed for the felony or attempted felony of which the defendant has been convicted, shall impose an additional term of three years. (4) If the loss exceeds three million two hundred thousand dollars ($3,200,000), the court, in addition and consecutive to the punishment prescribed for the felony or attempted felony of which the defendant has been convicted, shall impose an additional term of four years.”
 California Penal Code 1378 reads: “If the person injured appears before the court in which the action is pending at any time before trial, and acknowledges that he has received satisfaction for the injury, the court may, in its discretion, on payment of the costs incurred, order all proceedings to be stayed upon the prosecution, and the defendant to be discharged therefrom; but in such case the reasons for the order must be set forth therein, and entered on the minutes. The order is a bar to another prosecution for the same offense.”