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Penal Code 503 PC - Embezzlement Laws in California

California Penal Code 503 PC defines embezzlement as the fraudulent appropriation of property by someone to whom it has been entrusted.

Embezzlement Laws in California – Penal Code 503 PC

Embezzlement is different from a traditional theft offense because the property taken had been entrusted to the alleged perpetrator by the owner. To be convicted of PC 503 embezzlement, it must be proven that you possessed the property or were given permission to access it.

PC 503 says, “Embezzlement is the fraudulent appropriation of property by a person to whom it has been entrusted.”

Embezzlement typically involves employee theft. For example, when an employer permits an employee to hold or manage their property or money, they violate the trust by taking the property for their benefit.

Embezzlement is a white-collar crime that could become a complex Ponzi scheme designed to defraud victims of their money. A famous case of embezzlement is that of Bernie Madoff, a stock broker convicted of embezzling billions from investors.

Simply put, an embezzlement is a fraudulent act when somebody, usually an employee, who was trusted takes advantage of the person who trusted them, resulting in a loss. Let's review this state law further below.

Overview of PC 503

In embezzlement cases, the prosecutor must prove there was a “relationship of trust” between the owner and the defendant.

Embezzlement in California

The fraud that Penal Code 503 requires as an element of the crime is in the defendant's misappropriating the property when the owner reasonably assumed they were a trustworthy custodian.

Embezzlement is often associated with professionals, such as bookkeepers and accountants, to whom they were entrusted. To convict someone of PC 503 embezzlement, the prosecutor has to prove all the factors listed under CALCRIM 1806 California Criminal Jury Instructions, including the following:

  • The owner entrusted their property to the defendant;
  • The owner did so because they trusted them;
  • The defendant fraudulently used the property for their benefit;
  • The defendant had the intent to deprive the owner of its use.

What Are the Different Types of Embezzlement?

There are several Penal Codes in California defining forms of embezzlement, such as the following:

  • Penal Code 504 PC – embezzlement by a public official;
  • Penal Code 504a PC – embezzlement of leased property;
  • Penal Code 505 PC – embezzlement of transported property;
  • Penal Code 506 PC – embezzlement of funds by trustees;
  • Penal Code 506a PC – embezzlement of funds collected.

What Are the Related Crimes for PC 503?

Several California crimes are related to Penal Code 503 embezzlement, such as the following:

What Are the Penalties for PC 503?

Defendants charged with embezzlement can face either misdemeanor or felony punishments (wobbler), depending on the value of the embezzled property.

If the value was under $950, misdemeanor petty theft could be charged, which carries up to six months in the county jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

Suppose the value exceeds $950, felony grand theft, a sentence of up to three years in state prison, and payment of victim restitution. Penal Code 515 PC elevates the embezzlement crime to aggravated when the victim is elderly or dependent.

What Are the Defenses for PC 503?

As discussed below, a California criminal defense lawyer can use several strategies to fight Penal Code 503 PC embezzlement charges.

What you need to do is come in.  We'll sit down and review all the information, and then we'll design a plan for handling your embezzlement case.

Defenses for Penal Code 503 PC Embezzlement

Suppose there is evidence against you, and they can prove an embezzlement or a grand theft case against you. In that case, we will assemble a mitigation package and determine the best way to deal with the prosecutors to get you the best possible result.

Perhaps we can argue that there was no intent to deprive the owner. Maybe we can say you had a lawful right to possess the property. Perhaps we can argue that you did not cause any loss, breach a duty of confidence, or take advantage of the alleged victim. Most of the time, making the victim whole or paying them back is one of the crucial things that prosecutors see as their job. 

So, suppose we decide that we're going to mitigate the case and work out a resolution. In that case, our best bet is to see if we can either pay all of the restitution back or a portion of the restitution and make payments to get you the best possible result and keep you out of jail.

So, if you need the best, you're charged with embezzlement; you need some strategies that make sense for you, pick up the phone now.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.  We offer a free case evaluation via phone or contact form. The Hedding Law Firm is located in Los Angeles, California.

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