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What Is the Law on Misappropriation of Funds in California and What Are the Punishments for It?

Misappropriation of Funds takes place when a person has committed theft of money or property from another without the person’s authorization. Misappropriation of Funds is often confused to be the same as theft. The act of theft would require the person to take something from another person’s possession. Misappropriation of Funds, on the other hand, requires a certain degree of trust. Here, the person who owns a valuable property will have to knowingly hand over the said property to another person for caretaking or for specific reasons. When this property is stolen, it amounts to misappropriation. The property owner may have handed over this property with legal authorization, either partially or wholly, for specific intents or purposes.

In this scenario, the property does not have to be land or buildings. Property can be something that is of value that is under the possession of a person. In the crime of Misappropriation of Funds, this property would be monetary.

California Misappropriation of Funds Law
Misappropriation of Funds and Embezzlement

Misappropriation of Funds and embezzlement are viewed with the same lens. Embezzlement is a white-collar crime that is most commonly seen in business settings. Embezzlement, like Misappropriation of Funds, requires the person to have handed over property -money or otherwise – with good faith for any specific purpose. The reason why embezzlement is considered a serious crime is due to the involvement of trust. Unlike theft, wherein the person steals something that does not in their possession, embezzlement is the act of making a personal gain of property that was handed over to them with trust. This crime is all the more damaging as the repercussions can be experienced by society as a whole.

Examples of embezzlement include – an employee stealing funds from the company or employer, a trustee stealing the trust funds for personal use, a public official who steals a citizen’s money for personal benefit, unauthorized disbursements of public funds and so on.

California Misappropriation of Funds Law
Misappropriation of Funds in California

In the State of California, the crime of misappropriation can be divided into – Misappropriation of Funds by a public official and embezzlement.

  • In California, misappropriation of public funds is overlooked by the California Penal Code, Section 424 PC. Here, the act should have been committed by a person who serves in public office. The crime is all the more likely to be committed by someone who is in charge of public funds and other monetary matters. The state has a fiduciary responsibility to overlook the safety and well-being of its people. Public funds are collected by the government with good faith from the people. If a person has misused these funds for their personal gain, it amounts to a serious offense. The penalty for the crime can include up to 4 years in prison. The amount stolen will also have to repay in restitution. The convicted person will not be allowed to hold any future public office.
  • Embezzlement is overlooked by California Penal Code Section 503 PC. If a person is charged with unlawful use of entrusted property, it amounts to embezzlement. As for penalties, the crime can be treated as either petty theft or grand theft. If the stolen property carries a value of USD 950 or less, it is viewed as a Misdemeanor and can result in a maximum prison sentence of six months and suitable fines. For amounts exceeding USD 950, the person is considered to be a wobbler and may have to face up to 3 years in prison and suitable court fines. For stolen property worth over USD 65,000, an additional year can be added to the current prison sentence. In total, if the stolen property amounts to or exceeds USD 3,200,000, the person will have to face an additional four years in prison.
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