Accused of embezzlement? Advice from a former D.A.

In penal code section 503, California law defines embezzlement as the misappropriation of property that was entrusted to you. So, it applies in a situation where you had legitimate and lawful possession of the property at one time but then you did something illegally with it. And the and the classic common-sense example it is an employee at a store who takes cash from a customer and is responsible to go deposit this money in their employers bank account but instead of doing that the employee pockets the money.

Or to give a less formal example, suppose that you go and you borrow your neighbor’s car and you say, “Hey, can I borrow your car for just a few minutes, I’m just going to run down to the store” but you never give it back you drive to another state and strip it for parts and sell the car. Well, the neighbor calls the police and says hey so that someone just stole my car. In reality you didn’t steal the car you embezzled the car because in both of these situations you had lawful rightful, possession of the property at one time but then you converted it and did something illegal with it.

Now embezzlement is a serious crime it can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. How serious an embezzlement charges? It depends in large part on the value of the property that was embezzled. If it was $950 or less, then it can only be charged as a misdemeanor. But if it was more than $950 then it could be charged as a felony and the person could be looking at up to four years state prison, sometimes more if it was a really large amount that was embezzled. But the worst aspect of being convicted of embezzlement is that it goes on your record. And I can tell you that it is next to impossible to get a job anywhere if you have a conviction for embezzlement because obviously any employer is going to look at that and feel that you’re not trustworthy, that they don’t want to trust you with their property, with their money, put you in a position of trust at their company and so it’s very easy to pass over applicants with a record like that and can make it almost impossible to get a job.

We have found that embezzlement is one of those crimes where a lot of innocent people get wrongly accused and this happens for a number of reasons. Sometimes the alleged embezzler really had an honest and reasonable belief that they had the right to the property or they had permission to take it and they weren’t aware of doing anything wrong they weren’t trying to do anything inappropriate. Sometimes we find that it was really somebody else who did the embezzling and the finger got pointed wrongly at our client. We’ve seen that in many situations when—let’s say there’s multiple employees at a store who have access to the computers or the cash register the safe and the finger gets pointed at our client but really was another employee who did it. And sometimes we have a situation where the evidence is overwhelming that our client did embezzle the money or property and maybe our client confesses but even in those cases a lot of times we’re able to work out an informal resolution where we agree to repay the money we agree to pay restitution in exchange for ultimately getting the charges dropped.