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Embezzlement Law California

Embezzlement law California is defined while taking a few elements into consideration:

  • The owner of the funds or property entrusted an individual with the property.
  • The property/funds were given to the care of an individual because of the owner's trust in the individual.
  • The individual fraudulently used the property or funds for his own personal use.
  • The action was committed as a deliberate act to swindle the owner.

Charges of embezzlement hinge greatly on the relationship the individual had with the owner of the property. For example, the individual is an official employee of the owner. In such cases, California's embezzlement laws can go against the individual.

Another type of relationship is when the individual has been given official possession of the property although temporarily, or for a short period.

The third kind of relationship is when the individual was a trustee, a board member or a high official in an organization with a right to manage property and funds.

California Embezzlement Law

However, even while all these relationship clauses are in place, proving an individual guilty of embezzlement is still difficult. Some elements that can prove an individual guilty are:

  • An element that proves embezzlement is official documents that verify the power of attorney attesting the said individual to take care and manage the mentioned property or funds in the absence of the owner.
  • California laws identify a case of embezzlement only if the individual in question fraudulently uses the property entrusted in his care for his own benefit. In simpler terms, the individual takes undue advantage of the owner or cause loss by way of breaching the faith put on him by the owner. The offense should also be a breach of confidence to be called embezzlement.
  • Temporary deprivation of property to the owner in order to gain benefit from it is also called embezzlement according to California embezzlement laws.

Thus, embezzlement is only charged upon an individual if he has brought loss to the employer and in turn has brought benefit to himself.

Penalties under Penal Code 503 embezzlement

There are basically three different categories of punishment under the Penal Code 503 embezzlement. These are the Grand Theft Embezzlement penalty, the Petty Theft embezzlement penalty, and the Aggravating and Mitigating factors penalty.

Grand theft embezzlement penalty - The penalty corresponding to grand theft, Penal Code 487 PC, if the property embezzled is either:

  1. An embezzlement worth a maximum of nine hundred fifty dollars ($950).
  2. An automobile, which converts to penalties corresponding to grand theft auto.
  3. A firearm which converts to penalties corresponding to grand theft firearm.
Punishment for Embezzlement in California

The embezzled amount need not be a onetime $950 offense. It can be several offenses within a calendar year that amounted to a total of $950. The circumstance of the case and the offender's criminal history if any, will determine if the charges would be a misdemeanor or a felony. If charged with a misdemeanor the charges entail up to one year in county jail and a fine of not more than a thousand dollars.

If the embezzlement offense is charged as a felony, the punishments that entail will be an imprisonment term that may range from 16 months to 3 years or a fine of ten thousand dollars. 

Petty theft embezzlement penalties

Petty theft is considered a misdemeanor as per California embezzlement laws. The punishment for embezzlement in California is misdemeanor probation, an imprisonment term of up to 6 months in county jail, or a fine of 1000 dollars.

Aggravating and mitigating factors

The judge will consider tougher sentences if the victim of embezzlement was an elderly prison or was a person with a physical or mental impairment thus the name “Aggravating and mitigating factors”.


There are basically 3 main defenses that you can use to fight your case. They are:

  1. You believed in good faith that you had legal rights to the property.
  2. Your intent to take advantage of the property for your own benefit lacked any criminal intention.
  3. You were falsely accused of the crime.     

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