What is Embezzlement under California Penal Code 503?
California defines embezzlement as a specialized type of theft that occurs when anybody
fraudulently appropriates…property which has been entrusted to him or her, or who knowingly and designedly, by any false or fraudulent representation or pretense, defrauds any other person of that same property.
Embezzlement is considered to be a white collar crime and it may sound like it could only apply to senior level employees, but in fact, we’ve helped both lower level and management level employees who have faced these charges. People who often face embezzlement charges include:
- store cashiers
- office managers
- elder care personnel
Settling Case Out of Court
Sometimes clients contact us when they are under investigation only, but not yet contacted by the police. Other times, we may be brought into the loop after they’ve been interviewed by the police, but not yet arrested. Either way, we consider this to be the pre-file stage because there has been no formal arrest or filing of charges yet.
The pre-file stage gives us a narrow window when we can negotiate with the employer to settle out of court. Settling out of court is always preferable because it avoids the embarrassment of an arrest and a potential criminal record. Please be advised that if you are under investigation for embezzlement you should avoid discussing anything with a police investigator. In our adversarial legal system, the police are not on your side and a confession will be used against you.
Defenses in an Embezzlement Case
If your have already been arrested or charges have been filed, do not despair. We have successfully resolved many embezzlement cases which progressed to formal charges and to trial.
Good Faith Belief to Entitlement of Property
If you had a reasonable belief that the property belonged to you, then you might be exonerated so long as we can demonstrate that:
- The funds or property were appropriated openly and you did not use surreptitious means to take them.
- You did not take the property because he or she owed you a debt.
Lack of Criminal Intent
Sometimes accountants, bookkeepers or office managers make mistakes and lack criminal intent to defraud their employer. For instance, an employer might have provided confusing instructions about when to legitimately use a company credit card and the entrusted individual misinterpreted these instructions.
Sometimes business partners or family members accuse each other of embezzlement when they both had an interest in or the right to possess the property. In these case, we may be able to demonstrate that you merely used poor judgement and were falsely accused.