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Will I Go to Jail If Charged with Embezzlement?


In the state of California, the crime of embezzlement is covered under Penal Code 503 PC and generally described as taking money or property that was entrusted to you with intent to deprive the owner of it.

This statute is frequently called “employee theft” because they had permission from their employer to have control over the property due to the fact they were trusted.

This means PC 503 PC embezzlement often occurs when an employee takes advantage of their position of trust and fraudulently takes money or property for their own benefit.

Penal Code 504 PC misappropriation by a public officer is a closely related statute and can be used by a prosecutor in cases of embezzlement of public funds or property.

Other related crimes for embezzlement include California Penal Code 470 PC forgery and Penal Code 424 PC misappropriation of public funds.

Embezzlement is known as a “wobbler” because the prosecutor can file the case as either a misdemeanor or felony offense such as:

  • if the total value of the property in question in under $950, then it will be filed as a misdemeanor;
  • if value is greater than $950, a felony case could be filed.

For additional information, our Los Angeles criminal attorneys are providing an overview below

Elements of a PC 503 Embezzlement Crime

Penal Code 503 PC defines embezzlement as unlawfully taking property that was entrusted to you.California Penal Code 503 PC Embezzlement

In order for a prosecutor to convict you, they will have to prove several factors that are called the “elements of the crime,” which are listed under CALCRIM 1806 California Criminal Jury Instructions:

  • the owner trusted the defendant and thus entrusted their money or property to them;
  • the defendant unlawfully took owner’s money or property for their own benefit, and
  • the defendant’s intent was to deprive the owner of its use.

As you can see, PC 503 embezzlement cases require a prosecutor to prove that a relationship of trust existed between the owner of the property and the defendant.

This essentially means the property owner initially gave the defendant consent to have control or manage their property. This is what separates embezzlement from a normal theft related crime, such as shoplifting or burglary.

In other words, a prosecutor needs to prove the employee beached a duty of trust by fraudulent taking an owner’s property which caused them some form of loss.

In cases where a defendant claims they had intent to return the property to the owner, it would not be considered a valid defense.

Penalties for PC 503 Embezzlement

Penal Code 503 embezzlement is penalized by either a PC 487 grand theft or a PC 488 petty theft that will depend on the value and type of property that was stolen.

If charged as a PC 487 grand theft, it’s a “wobbler” that can be filed as a misdemeanor or felony. A misdemeanor conviction is punishable by:

  • up to one year in county jail,
  • a fine up to $1,000.

A felony grand theft conviction in California is punishable by:

  • up to three years in jail,
  • a fine up to $10,000.

A misdemeanor petty theft conviction is punishable by up to six months in a county jail.

Avoid Jail by Paying Back the Money Taken

I’ve been handling Penal Code 503 PC embezzlement cases for almost three decades in Los Angeles county and all surrounding counties.

It’s a very serious crime because the person who is typically involved in the embezzlement and who is a defendant in the case is:Avoid Jail by Paying Back the Money Taken by Embezzlement

  • usually in a position of trust, and
  • they’re taking advantage of their employer.

Of course, the authorities hate that and they’re going to be looking to put the person in prison or jail in order to punish them.

This is because that’s the worst thing they can typically do to them, aside from making them pay whatever money back that was taken.  Of course, they’re going to do that, as well.

But one thing that I have seen that connects with the money and the jail/prison time, is if you can pay the money back.

If somebody steals money and the authorities can prove it and the person is charged with embezzlement and they don’t want to go to prison and be ordered to pay the money back, then what they can do a lot of times if try to come up with the money up front.

To me, that’s a recipe for success if you’re charged with embezzlement in California.  You don’t want to go to jail and you don’t want to go to prison.

Avoid Jail by Retaining an Experienced Criminal Lawyer

Another recipe for success in these embezzlement cases is hiring a seasoned criminal defense attorney who know how to either fight these cases or mitigate them, depending on what the circumstances are.

I’ve been handling these cases now for quite some time, and I can tell you right now, the factors the prosecutors are looking at are:

  • your criminal record,
  • what you did how many victims were involved,
  • how much loss was involved,
  • how badly you hurt the victim financially.

There are also a host of other factors that would obviously be dependent on what type of embezzlement case you have:

  • what was your position?
  • what did you do?
  • were other defendants involved?

There’s a whole host of questions that are going to be looked at in deciding what to do with you.

Developing a Solution on a Complex Embezzlement Case

When you’re talking about complex situations like this, sometimes they require a complex solution.Criminal Defense for California Embezzlement Cases

So, having a criminal defense attorney who knows how to come up with a solution, not in a cookie-cutter fashion, but:

  • based on what happened in your specific case; and
  • how it’s going to impact you.

You don’t want to go to prison for five years.  You want to be able to continue to make money, continue to be able to support yourself and your family, and take care of your case the right way.

Just going to prison and being ordered to pay the money kills you because you can’t make any money because you’re in prison and when you get out of prison, you still owe the money.  So, that really doesn’t do you any good.

You need a criminal defense attorney who is solution-oriented when it comes to these embezzlement cases in California. You need somebody who is savvy, sophisticated, knows how to handle criminal cases.

I come from a background of taking the attitude in the early 1990s after I graduated from law school that I was going to figure out how to be the best criminal defense attorney possible.

What I came up with is that I first worked for the prosecutors, then I worked for a judge, and then I decided to be the best criminal defense lawyer that I could, having the perspective from the two other entities that I have to deal with in these particular cases.

Also, prosecutors deal with the police, so I dealt with the police when I was working for the District Attorney’s office in the early 1990s.  I worked with a judge to see how he came up with his solutions to problems.

Criminal Defense for Embezzlement Cases

So, if you’re charged with embezzlement, you will clearly want to get the best possible result and you want to stay out of jail or prison.

You also want to protect yourself for the future and set things up to be successful, not just serve that long prison sentence and come out with all kinds of debt.

You want to come up with the best game plan that makes sense for you.  You’ve got to realize how the prosecutors and judge are perceiving things and then come up with a plan to give them what they want so you can get what you want.

Pick up the phone now.  Take the first step.  Ask for a meeting with Ronald Hedding.  I stand at the ready to help you to get you the best result.

Hedding law firm has a record of success defending people against theft related crimes, such as PC 503 embezzlement.

Contact our office for a free case evaluation at (213) 374-3952.

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Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ.

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