California Penal Code 503 PC defines the crime of embezzlement as the illegal taking of money or property that had been entrusted to you with the specific intent to deprive the owner.
Embezzlement is considered a theft crime, but it's unique because it typically involves a trusted employee stealing money or property from their employer who were given permission to have access to it.
Thus, PC 503 embezzlement is frequently called “employee theft” because they simply had consent from the owner to have control over company's assets. In order words, they were placed in a position of trust.
Embezzlement is another California “wobbler” offense that the prosecutor can file as either a misdemeanor or felony crime, depending on the amount of loss and defendant's criminal history.
In cases where the total value of money or property is greater than $950, then the prosecutor will file the embezzlement case as a felony. If under $950, a misdemeanor case will be filed.
Embezzlement is known as a non-violent white collar crime involving some type of fraud. Closely related crimes include:
- Penal Code 504 PC – embezzlement by a public officer,
- Penal Code 424 PC – misappropriation of public funds,
- Penal Code 470 PC – forgery,
- Penal Code 487 PC – grand theft.
A felony Penal Code 503 embezzlement conviction carries a sentence of up to three years in jail.
For more information, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer are providing a review below.
What is Penal Code 503 Embezzlement?
Put simply, embezzlement is unlawfully taking money or property that was entrusted to you with intent to deprive the owner of the ability to use it.
In order to be convicted of PC 503 embezzlement, the prosecutor must be able to prove, beyond any reasonable doubt, several factors known as the “elements of the crime.”
These factors are listed under CALCRIM 1806 California Criminal Jury Instructions as follows:
- the owner entrusted their property to you because you were trusted;
- you fraudulently took their property for your own benefit, and
- you had a specific intent to deprive the owner of its use.
The prosecutor must prove there was a relationship of trust between you and the owner.
Embezzlement normally happens in a situation where a company employee takes advantage of their position of trust that causes some type of loss to the owner.
Further, in order to be found guilty, the prosecutor has to show you intended to deprive the owner of its use, even if only temporarily.
This means claiming you intended to return the money or property is not considered a valid defense to embezzlement charges.
Punishments for a PC 503 Embezzlement Conviction
Embezzlement can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony crime. As stated, if the property was worth over $950, embezzlement could be charged as a felony offense that carries up to three years in custody.
If the property taken was under $950, then the prosecutor will file a misdemeanor case that carries a sentence of up to six months in jail and a fine.
The penalties for an embezzlement conviction could vary widely depending on the level of the theft. For example:
- A first-time embezzlement of money or property worth $400 or less is punishable by only a fine, community service, and informal probation.
- If the amount embezzled exceeds $65,000, an additional year in prison can could be added to a prison sentence.
- If the amount embezzled was greater than $3,200,000, then four additional years could be added to the sentence.
If you are placed on informal probation, then you will be required to check in with the court to ensure you are paying the fines and completing community service hours.
If you are convicted of PC 503 embezzlement, you are eligible to have the conviction expunged.
An expungement under Penal Code 1203.4 releases you from most of the consequences associated with the conviction, but you have to first successfully complete probation.
Defending Penal Code 503 Embezzlement Cases
There's a lot of embezzlement-related offenses that are charged in Santa Barbara county. You obviously want to get an attorney who's got experience handling these cases, knows how to defend them, knows how to negotiate and knows how to mitigate them.
Sometimes you have a situation where you're being charged improperly with an embezzlement case and you need the best to defend it and win the case.
Other times, you're charged the right way and you need the best to come in and negotiate for you, show all the mitigating factors and get you the best resolution possible.
This is to keep you out of prison and do everything that can be done for your record, your reputation, and the other consequences that can flow from an embezzlement case in Santa Barbara county.
We might be able to argue you didn't cause any loss, breach a duty of confidence, or take advantage of the alleged victim.
Further, the best defense to embezzlement charges is to show you had no intent to deprive the owner of their ability to use the property.
Special Prosecutors for Large-Scale Embezzlement
Santa Barbara is one of the tougher courthouses in California. There's not a huge amount of offenses that are prosecuted in that courthouses.
However, the ones that are, if they related to embezzlement for large dollar amounts, then Santa Barbara has special prosecutors that that is all they do.
These prosecutors are responsible for handling embezzlement-related offenses involving large dollar amounts. Those prosecutors have a lot of experience and are typically looking to send people to prison and get the money back for the person or people who lost the money.
So, what I have you do is, come into my office, sit down and go over all the facts and details related to your case, and first decide whether or not the case can be defended.
If it can be defended, then what we're going to do is get an investigative plan together. I'll send my investigator out — a former police officer — with specific instructions about what we need him to do.
Preparing a Mitigation Package
If, on the other hand, we decide that it's not a case that can be defended and we need to negotiate, then we're going to start to put together a mitigation package.
We're going to start to put together your story so that the prosecutor and the judge have everything related to the offense that helps you, because typically, the police officers, the sheriff's department in Santa Barbara county are not going to put the time and effort in to get your side of the story.
They're not going to investigate things that might actually help you. What they're going to do is get all the evidence they can against you and put yourself in a position where you either have to take a deal or take the case to trial.
Once we make the decision of what we're going to do, then we're going to put a plan together. We're going to work together on the plan so that we both know what needs to be done and we can get the result that you need.
So, if you're charged with embezzlement in Santa Barbara, you've come to the right place. Take the first step now. Pick up the phone. Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. Come into my office.
We'll sit down and go over all the facts and details of your case and then we'll get a plan together that puts you in the best position possible so that you can put my experience to work for you.
Hedding Law Firm is a criminal defense law firm based in Los Angeles County at 16000 Ventura Blvd #1208 Encino, CA 91436. We offer a free case evaluation at (213) 542-0979.