Embezzlement in California occurs when someone authorized to access an organization’s assets uses that money for personal gain. Employee theft is another name for embezzlement.
Grounds for embezzlement
California Penal Code Section 503 PC defines the grounds for embezzlement. The key elements in that definition include the following items.
Authority is one of the key differentiators between theft crimes and embezzlement. Although they both involve stealing, embezzlement requires that the property owner grants possession or control of the property to the defendant.
The owner transferred control of the property to the defendant because they trusted them to safeguard it. In many embezzlement cases, the defendant is a trusted employee, such as an office manager or accountant.
Conversion for personal benefit
If the accused has the owner’s trust and permission, they must use the assets for personal gain in order for the act to qualify as embezzlement. For example, an accountant redirects funds from a company’s bank account to a personal account to pay for emergency hospital bills.
Intent to deprive the owner
The prosecutor must prove that the theft was intentional and not due to negligence or error. Unlike some states, the intent to temporarily misappropriate funds may be sufficient cause for action.
In California, the consequences of embezzlement may include both criminal and civil penalties.
Embezzling $950 or less is considered a misdemeanor that is punishable by a maximum of six months in county jail and a $1,000 fine. Defendants convicted of stealing more than $950 may face a felony charge, a maximum three-year prison term and possible fines.
The court will likely order the defendant to provide total restitution of the stolen money. A negotiated payment plan might be an option.
The principle that the accused is innocent until proven guilty is one of the basic tenets of the judicial system, and a prosecutor must prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.