California Embezzlement Laws: Penal Code 503

What Constitutes California Felony Embezzlement?

Embezzlement in California is a property theft where a person entrusted to monitor or manage another individual’s money or property steals part or all for their gain. The defendant in this circumstance has legal access to another’s money or property, but not legal ownership of it. California law states that taking another’s money or property for personal gain is theft; when combined with the fact that this stealing was also a violation of a unique position of trust, it becomes a crime of embezzlement.

Embezzlement can happen in several circumstances. For instance, a bank teller has legal access to money belonging to the client, but taking or using the money for the teller’s gain would be considered embezzlement by the law.

California embezzlement law penalizes embezzlement according to the type or value of the property, or the amount of money that has been stolen. Embezzlement of property worth less than $950 is a misdemeanor, subjecting a defendant to possible jail time of up to six months, and up to $1,000 fines. If the property is worth less than $50, a prosecutor can decide to charge the offense as an infraction, carrying a penalty of up to $250 fines.

California law categorizes the embezzlement of property, money, or services, and many enumerated items, more than $950 as grand theft. A person convicted with a misdemeanor grand theft can receive jail time of up to one year. However, a person convicted for felony grand theft can face up to three years of the state prison sentence.

A person convicted with embezzlement of public money in California is charged with a felony. They may be subject to increased fines and penalties, including repayment of stolen property or funds, and about two to four years in prison. Also, the individual can be permanently ineligible for any state or local government position.

In addition to the punishments applicable to the type of property embezzled, a prosecutor can add extra fines, prison sentence, or both convictions for offenses that involve aggravating factors. A defendant will be subjected to a white-collar crime enhancement if they are convicted during the same criminal trial of two or more felonies involving fraud or embezzlement, which in combination led to a loss of another’s more than $100,000.

California law also considers embezzlement from an elder or dependent person an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes and imposes more penalties for such crimes. 


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