What is embezzlement?

In order for an act to be considered embezzlement under California law, three conditions must be met:

1- A person must misappropriate someone else’s property for his or her own benefit.

2- That person must have had the intention of depriving the owner of that property or of its use.

3- The misappropriated property must have been entrusted to the embezzler by its owner. Such a trust relationship is typically assumed to exist in the case of an employee, a board member or trustee who has been given the power to manage money or property, or a bailee. A bailee is someone who is given short-term possession of a property, such as when a customer hands over the keys to his car.

What types of embezzlement are there?

Under the California Embezzlement Laws Penal Code 503 PC, there are two primary types of embezzlement: grand theft and petty theft. Grand theft embezzlement occurs whenever a car or firearm is involved, or if the value of the property embezzled amounts to more than $950 over a 12 month period. Otherwise, the offense is deemed to be petty theft embezzlement. Both would require the help of a bondsman to be released out on bail.

What are the potential penalties for embezzlement?

A conviction for petty theft embezzlement could result in a maximum six-month sentence in county jail and/or a maximum $1,000 fine. If you are convicted of grand theft embezzlement, however, you could be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony. Whether an individual is charged with a felony or a misdemeanor will depend on criminal history and the particular circumstances of the case. If a firearm is stolen, felony charges will apply.

A misdemeanor grand theft conviction can result in summary probation, as much as one year in county jail, and/or a maximum $10,000 fine. For a felony conviction, charges can be increased to a maximum of three years in state prison, and probation, if any, would be formal. For the embezzlement of particularly high-value property worth more than $3.2 million, it is possible to serve as many as four years in prison.

Various factors can affect sentencing. Voluntarily returning embezzled property prior to being charged with the crime could lower a person’s sentence. Embezzling from a particularly weak individual – such as an invalid, a mentally handicapped individual, or an elderly person – could result in a stricter sentence.

How should an individual proceed if arrested for embezzlement?

If an individual is arrested under suspicion of running afoul of embezzlement laws, bail will be set. To post bail, arrested individuals without significant assets may need to rely on the bail bond process. This involves purchasing a bond that represents a promise to pay the full amount of your bail if you do not appear. Bail bonds are sold for above the price of the bond, so it is much like borrowing at interest.
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