Penal Code 503 PC: California Embezzlement Laws
Under California Penal Code 503 PC, an intent to gain or retain assets by deception is against the law. What distinguishes embezzlement from theft or larceny is that there was a fiduciary relationship between the victim and the defendant. The victim entrusted the defendant with the use of specified assets or funds.
For the victim or the prosecution to prove that embezzlement occurred, they must establish four things:
- A fiduciary relationship existed between the victim and the defendant
- The defendant acquired the asset through the business relationship
- The defendant took ownership of the property and transferred it to another entity
- The defendant committed these actions intentionally
Failure to establish these facts can lead to dismissal of the case or a reduced sentence.
Penalties for Embezzlement in California
The penalty for embezzlement in California depends on the circumstances of your case. They may include:
- Heavy fines
- Compensation for the amount stolen
- Compensation for other damages to the victim
Theft of property valued under $950 may result in a petty theft charge. Theft of property valued at over $950 may result in a felony charge, in which the sentencing increases substantially.
Possible Defenses Against an Embezzlement Charge
As your attorney, my job is to assess the charges against you and develop a strategic legal defense that either demonstrates your innocence or reduces your sentence if the court determines that you are guilty. Possible defenses in an embezzlement case may include:
1. A Claim of Good Faith
The defendant openly took the assets or funds, believing that they were justified based on a prior agreement or the defendant’s position. I may be able to prove that you believe that you had the right to acquire the asset.
2. Claim of Authority
I may be able to demonstrate that you had the right to claim the assets through a power of attorney, trust, or other legal agreement. You may have made a previous arrangement with the plaintiff that gave you the right to access and handle the funds at your discretion.
3. No Demand
Although California law does not explicitly state that a formal demand is required to win a case, the victim should request a demand in writing. If there is no evidence of a demand for the return of the property, I may be able to prove that there was no actual embezzlement that occurred.