When you think of embezzlement charges, Ponzi schemes or corrupt politicians may immediately come to mind. The truth is, embezzlement is not always a sensational event. Anyone who has control of someone else’s property or money and uses it for their own personal gain, without proper authorization, is committing embezzlement.

We understand how the law in California applies to embezzlement charges and have helped many of our clients with their defense cases.

What is embezzlement?

According to FindLaw, the elements of embezzlement include the following.

  • You have legal authorization to use someone else’s finances or property for business reasons
  • You use the property or money for your own purposes, without approval
  • You have no intention of giving the property or money back to the owner

Perhaps the most common form of embezzlement involves stealing money for personal gain. For example, you may legally have access to your company’s credit card for business purposes. If you buy expensive clothing with the credit card, however, this is a form of embezzlement.

The role of intent in embezzlement cases

If you are facing embezzlement charges, the prosecutor must prove that you had the specific intent of defrauding the victim. For example, if you accidentally used the company credit card instead of your own because you grabbed the wrong one, this would not be embezzlement but rather a simple mistake. Additionally, you must have no intention of giving the money or property back to the rightful owner at the time of the crime for embezzlement to apply.

Some states require an intent to permanently deprive the victim of their money or property for valid embezzlement charges. In California, however, even a plan to defraud the victim temporarily is enough for an embezzlement charge to stick.