PC 503, 487, 488, 1203.4, 470, 459, 504, 424 - Embezzlement Laws in California

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Embezzlement Laws in California

In California, it is illegal to embezzle property that has been trusted to you. California’s Penal Code 503 PC defines embezzlement as the unlawful taking of property that has been entrusted to you and having the intention of depriving the owner of the use of that property. This crime is charged as a felony if the property value is $950 or more. 

If you’ve been charged with this or a related crime, please continue to read on for crucial information in understanding this law; the H Law Group is here to answer your questions and fill in the blanks.

Section 1 - Defining Penal Code 503 PC 

To be guilty of this crime, a prosecutor must prove all of the following:

  1. The owner of something trusted their property to the defendant
  2. The owner did so in a trusting manner 
  3. The defendant betrayed that trust and fraudulently used that property for their own benefit
  4. They had the intention of depriving the owner of its use

This law is defined by an established relationship of trust, fraudulent use of property, and an intent to deprive the rightful owner of that property.

Section 1.1 - Established relationship of trust

To convict someone of embezzlement, it must be proven that there was an established relationship of trust between the owner of the property and someone else.

An example of this is the defendant was the employee of the owner of the property. In this way, the defendant is tasked with either managing or possessing the property of the owner; thus, a relationship of trust.

Section 1.2 - Betrayal of trust and fraudulent use

Someone is considered to act fraudulently when they take undue advantage of someone or their property and cause that person to bear a loss by betraying an established relationship of trust.

Section 1.3 - Intention to deprive

Someone is guilty of embezzling if they intend to deprive the owner of their property or its use, even if they intended to do so temporarily. 

Section 2 - Legal defenses against an embezzlement charge

There are a few different legal defenses that someone can pursue in the face of an embezzlement charge. Some common defenses are:

  1. Claiming there was no fraudulent use
  2. There was no intent to deprive of property or its use
  3. Claiming good faith of a right to property

Section 2.1 - Claiming there was no fraudulent use

If there was, in fact, no taking undue advantage of someone or causing a loss to that person by removing use of their property, then someone cannot be charged with embezzlement.

Section 2.2 - Claiming there was no intent to deprive

If the defendant had no intent to deprive the owner of their property or its use, as in there was a misunderstanding or miscommunication as to how to use that property, then that person cannot be charged with embezzlement.

Section 2.3 - Claiming good faith

The defendant is not guilty of embezzling if they thought they were entitled to the property in question. If the person thought they were being compensated for something that they forgot they were compensated for previously, then they can claim good faith that they were entitled to the property.

Section 3 - Punishment for embezzling

Penal Code 487 and 488 detail the punishments for embezzlement in California. Embezzlement can be charged as grand theft if what was stolen or used fraudulently was worth more than $950, a car, or a firearm.

Grand theft can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. As a misdemeanor, it carries a punishment of up to a year in jail, and as a felony, it carries a punishment of up to three years in jail.

If the embezzlement was for something worth less than $950, then it is charged as a misdemeanor of petty theft, which is punishable by up to six months in jail.

Section 4 - Consequence regarding immigration

Penal Code 503 conviction can carry negative consequences for an immigrant.

A non-citizen can be deported or marked “inadmissible” if they are convicted of committing this crime. 

Section 5 - Can the conviction be expunged?

Someone can have this charge expunged if they successfully complete their probation or complete their jail sentence. Penal Code 1203.4 states that a person with expungement is released of all penalties and disabilities as a result of their conviction.

Section 6 - Gun rights being affected as a result of conviction

Since this crime can be convicted as a felony, then it can affect someone’s gun rights because convicted felons cannot acquire or possess a firearm in California.

Section 7 - Related offenses

There are a few crimes that are closely related to embezzlement:

  1. PC 470 - forgery
  2. PC 459 - Burglary
  3. PC 504 - Embezzlement by a public officer
  4. PC 424 - Misappropriation of public funds

Section 7.1 - Forgery

Forgery is when someone sign’s another person’s name, falsifies a legal document, fakes someone’s handwriting, presents a false document dealing with finances.

Section 7.2 - Burglary 

Burglary is committed when someone enters another person’s place of residence, commercial building, or room with an intent to commit theft classified as a felony.

Section 7.3 - Embezzlement by a public officer

A public officer is guilty of embezzlement if they fraudulently use public property or funds and not consistent with their authority.

Section 7.4 - Misappropriation of public funds

This crime is committed when someone misuses public funds and is simultaneously responsible for those funds. 

Section 8 - Civil remedies for embezzlement

The victim of an embezzlement case can seek a civil lawsuit against the embezzler and claim an unjust enrichment, a breach of contract, or even conversion. If the victim of embezzlement wins in court, then the embezzler will have to pay full restitution of damages.

If you find yourself facing an embezzlement charge or even a similar criminal charge, then you can contact us at H Law Group for more information or even legal counsel. To contact us, please visit our website at the following link: https://www.thehfirm.com/