If you’ve been charged with embezzlement, you should contact a San Diego embezzlement attorney. A trained and experienced lawyer can help you understand the charges, your rights, and the best resolution to your situation. A criminal defense attorney can never guarantee you’ll be found innocent if the charges go to trial, but an attorney will work to reduce the charges or penalties arising from a conviction.

Accountants, bookkeepers, and bankers are often charged with embezzlement when funds go missing in an employment setting. However, individuals can also be charged with embezzling from other individuals. According to California Penal Code §503, embezzlement is a type of theft, and it occurs when property – often, but not always money – is taken by a person to whom it was entrusted. It is a serious crime whether it’s in a private or public setting.

What is Embezzlement?

The reason embezzlement is a different charge than theft or grand theft is that the property is taken by someone who was given the ability to control, manage, or monitor it. The individual could legally access and interact with the funds or objects. The court looks at this individual as someone in a unique position of trust.

However, access does not equate to ownership. By appropriating the property as their own, the person was stealing.

Examples of Embezzlement

The difference between theft and embezzlement may seem slight, but it focuses on the defendant’s position of trust in regard to the property and how the defendant obtained the property through that relationship.

Some examples of embezzlement are:

  • A mover takes some of a homeowner’s furniture when he or she is hired to move it from one house to another.
  • A caretaker takes some of an elderly person’s money when he or she is tasked with making purchases and managing the elderly person’s finances.
  • A lawyer removes a client’s funds from the trust account and uses them for his or her own purposes.

Penalties for Embezzlement

Like theft, embezzlement may be a misdemeanor or felony depending on the value of the property stolen.

Embezzlement of less than $50 worth of property may be charged as an infraction, which could lead to a fine up to $250. However, if the defendant has prior theft or other convictions, this option isn’t available and he or she will be charged with a misdemeanor.

Embezzlement of property worth less than $950 is charged as a misdemeanor. The defendant faces up to six months in jail and a fine up to $1,000.

If someone allegedly embezzles more than $950 worth of property they are charged with grand theft, which can be a misdemeanor or felony. A conviction of a misdemeanor comes with no more than one year in jail. However, a felony can come with up to 3 years in prison.

Embezzlement of public funds is treated different in California. If someone is charged with stealing public money, they are automatically charged with a felony. A conviction not only comes with fines and potential time in prison, but that individual will then be ineligible for local or state government positions.

Aggravating Factors to Embezzlement

Many crimes come with more severe penalties such as higher fines and longer prison sentences when aggravating factors are present.

Under California law, some aggravating factors in regard to embezzlement are:

  • Stealing from elderly or dependent persons, or
  • The white collar crime enhancement, which means the defendant is convicted of two or more felonies involving fraud or embezzlement, during one case, which causes a loss of more than $100,000 to another individual.

If the offender charged with the aggravated white collar crime enhancement caused another individual to lose more than $500,000, the penalties are even harsher.

Why You Need a San Diego Embezzlement Attorney

Embezzlement or any other theft-related charge is a serious offense. Even if you’re charged with appropriating a small amount of money, a conviction creates a permanent criminal record, which will follow you the rest of your life. A criminal record can hinder going to college, getting school and other loans, and moving up in your career.

You may want to risk facing the situation on your own because you fear the cost of an attorney, but a lawyer has experience working with prosecutors to reduce charges, knows how to frame the facts to benefit your case, and can fight to get you probation or a lesser penalty – particularly one that doesn’t involve a lengthy prison sentence. You need an attorney who will get to know your unique situation, knows California law, and can prepare a strong defense.

Call San Diego embezzlement attorney Jessica McElfresh today at (858) 756-7107 to learn more about the charges brought against you and how she can help.

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