Being accused of embezzlement can be devastating. Depending on the case, embezzlement can carry jail time, massive fines, and even years in state prison. A single charge can also affect your job, your business reputation, and your prospects for the future. If you have been accused, you need to talk to an embezzlement lawyer in Los Angeles.
The Simmrin Law Group can help you. We have built our name on defending those who are accused, and we know how to win. Do not risk jail time or a lost career because of one criminal charge. Let us give you a free consultation.
How Is Embezzlement Defined in California?
Embezzlement is defined in a state law known as California Penal Code Section 503. Under this law, you are only guilty of embezzlement if all the following facts are true:
- You were entrusted with money or property,
- The property’s owner trusted you to maintain or keep it,
- You instead fraudulently transferred it to yourself for your own benefit, and
- You did so with the intent to deprive the owner of the use or benefit of the property or money
If even one of these elements is missing in your case, you may not be guilty of embezzlement and your sentence may be reduced or dropped altogether. At your initial consultation with one of our embezzlement attorneys in Los Angeles, they will assess your situation and tell you what the next steps may be.
For a free legal consultation with a Criminal Defense lawyer serving Los Angeles, call (310) 896-2723
Is Embezzlement Hard to Prove?
While an employer can easily accuse you of embezzlement, proving it is a different matter. To prove that you embezzled funds, the prosecution must prove all four elements of the charge. If they cannot, you cannot be convicted.
This is why embezzlement charges can be hard to prove when the defendant has a good lawyer. If someone has accused you, an embezzlement lawyer in L.A. may be able to help you avoid a charge. We know what elements to look for in your case to disprove your accusation.
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What Are Examples of Embezzlement Cases?
Embezzlement is usually seen as a white-collar crime, and that’s often true. Accountants, corporate executives, employees, and business partners all have the opportunity to embezzle in different ways. Anytime someone is entrusted with an account, control of a firm or an asset, cash or a business property there is the potential for embezzlement to occur.
However, embezzlement can also extend to many other situations, such as:
- A son using his elderly father’s savings account to pay for his own purchases
- A nursing home employee billing false charges to a patient’s medical account, and pocketing the money
- A parking valet renting out the cars he is entrusted with
- An ex-husband disposing of property that is jointly owned with his ex-wife and keeping the full profit (or more than his allotted share)
Even simply stealing cash from a register technically counts as embezzlement. If you are not sure that your case counts as embezzlement, you should contact a Los Angeles white-collar crime lawyer. They can tell you if your charges are legitimate and what they can do for your case.
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Is It Embezzlement if the Money Is Returned?
Yes, even if you return the money, it is still embezzlement. Any time that you use your company funds for your own purposes, you are embezzling. That’s still true if you give the money back afterward.
However, you do have a better chance at a reduced sentence if you return the money. By showing that you understood what you did was wrong and tried to make it right, you won’t avoid an embezzlement charge, but you could lessen the severity of your penalties.
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What Is the Punishment for Embezzlement in California?
The penalties depend on what type of embezzlement charge you face. If you are accused of embezzlement you can be charged with two different crimes: petty theft or grand theft:
- Petty theft refers to embezzlement worth $950 or less and is always a misdemeanor
- Grand theft refers to embezzlement worth more than $950 and can be a felony or a misdemeanor
You cannot be charged with both for a single act. However, if you are accused of multiple small acts of embezzlement, and they collectively add up to more than $950 within any 12-month period, you can be charged with grand theft embezzlement.
The penalties for each one are:
- Petty theft embezzlement
- Up to six months in county jail,
- A fine of up to $1,000, and/or
- Summary (unsupervised) probation
- Grand theft embezzlement (misdemeanor)
- Up to one year in county jail,
- Up to $1,000 in fines, and/or
- Summary (unsupervised) probation
- Grand theft embezzlement (felony)
- 16 months, two years, or three years in county jail
- A fine up to $10,000
- Formal (supervised) probation
An L.A. embezzlement attorney may be able to help you avoid severe penalties in your case. A free consultation with us can show you what can be done about your case.
When Is the Punishment for Embezzlement More Severe?
There are also some sentence enhancements that can make the penalties more severe:
- You may face the maximum sentence for your charge if you embezzled from a senior citizen or someone under your care, and you may face an additional count of elder abuse if they are senile or have a major disability
- If the property embezzled was a firearm you will serve your sentence in state prison instead of county jail
- You also face extra time if you embezzled particularly large amounts of money:
- 1 extra year for property worth $65,000 or more
- 2 extra years for property worth $200,000 or more
- 3 extra years for property worth $1,300,000 or more
- 4 extra years for property worth $3,200,000 or more
Depending on the circumstances, you could also be charged with forgery, check fraud or real estate fraud. With the help of a skilled criminal defense lawyer, you may be able to reduce more severe penalties.
When Is Grand Theft Embezzlement a Felony in California?
Grand theft embezzlement is always a felony in California if it involves a firearm or an automobile. Otherwise, the prosecutor will choose whether to charge you with a felony based on:
- Your criminal history (if any)
- The circumstances of the cases
- How much money or property value was involved
This is an area where a lawyer can potentially help negotiate down an offer of a much less serious misdemeanor charge. If you believe you’re facing a felony charger for grand embezzlement, you should contact a criminal defense attorney.
Can You Beat an Embezzlement Charge in Los Angeles?
There is a chance that, with the help of a skilled lawyer, you could be able to beat your embezzlement charge. By showing evidence like documents, witness testimony, and security video that proves you are not guilty of embezzlement, your embezzlement attorney in Los Angeles may be able to get your case dismissed.
We don’t advise that you try to get your charge dropped on your own. The ins and outs of criminal law are hard to navigate even for other lawyers, so having an experienced attorney by your side is important to your case.
What Is the Best Defense to an Embezzlement Charge?
The defense depends on what happened and what evidence is involved. However, the main three defenses that succeed in embezzlement cases are:
There Was No Criminal Intent
The intent to deprive the rightful owner of value or benefit is part of the crime. Honest mistakes, even very serious and costly ones, are not embezzlement. You can only be charged if the prosecution can prove that you had criminal intent.
If you can show that you were open and public about what you were doing, it undermines the element of fraud that is required in embezzlement cases. This is particularly strong if you believed the property was yours to use (even if you were wrong).
Unfortunately, “embezzlement” is the first accusation made in many situations where former business partners or family members disagree over a property. These cases can be emotional and time-consuming, but they can also be easy to fight because the other side lacks hard evidence.
Ultimately, the best defense is the one that has an experienced, knowledgeable legal team behind it. You need to have an embezzlement lawyer in Los Angeles on your side.
Talk to an Embezzlement Attorney in Los Angeles for Free
Embezzlement charges ruin careers, businesses, and lives. Don’t let this happen to you. Los Angeles embezzlement lawyers Simmrin Law Group have the experience, the know-how, and the track record to take on embezzlement cases – and deliver results.
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