If you are trusted to handle money or other property temporarily and later accused of stealing it, you may face embezzlement charges. If that happens to you, you may be worried about criminal penalties as well as the impact of these allegations on your personal and professional lives. At Michael McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer, we understand there are two sides to every story. We will compassionately review the facts of your situation and defend you in court. Fresno embezzlement defense attorney Michael McKneely knows that embezzlement charges can be complex. Contact him at (559) 443-7442 to see how he can help keep your record clean.
Embezzlement Charges in California
Under California Penal Code section 503, embezzlement is defined as taking property or funds that were entrusted to you and using them for your own purposes. The key element of this charge is that you were entrusted with funds or an item but that you did not have ownership. Common examples of embezzlement include:
- A bank teller taking money from an account holder and using it for themselves
- Someone borrowing a car from a friend and then not returning it
- A family member taking an elderly relative’s health care funds and using it for themselves
- A company using its employees’ retirement funds for business expenses
In all of these cases, an individual or group was given temporary permission to handle or store an item, but they did not have ownership. Being entrusted with the stolen item is what separates embezzlement from general theft.
The severity of an embezzlement charge and the penalties that follow depend on the value and type of thing that was taken. It is what is known as a “wobbler” crime, meaning that it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.
- Misdemeanor Embezzlement – When the value of an item is less than $950, the embezzlement is considered a form of petty theft and is usually as a misdemeanor. Although sentences vary, the consequence for this crime is typically up to 6 months in county jail.
- Felony Embezzlement – Depending on the circumstances, embezzlement may be a felony if the item taken was an automobile, a firearm, or worth more than $950. Sentences may be up to 3 years in prison.
- Embezzling Public Funds – Misappropriating public funds is a felony and will result in a harsh sentence. In addition to being required to pay back the funds, the person could face 2, 3, or 4 years in state prison. Someone convicted of this crime is also unable to obtain a position in local or state government.
Talk to a Fresno Embezzlement Defense Attorney Today
In order to convict you or your loved one of embezzlement, the prosecution must prove that you meant to deprive the owner of his or her property for your own personal gain. In many cases, the best defense is an honest belief that you were handling the item in a way that the owner intended. Another successful defense is that you were falsely accused and that you had no intention of mishandling or stealing the item. Both of these strategies attack key elements of the crime and can be used to get your charges dismissed or reduced.
If you’re facing embezzlement charges in California, preserve your legal rights and freedom by contacting Michael McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer. Fresno criminal defense attorney Michael McKneely has been on both sides of the criminal justice system, so he knows what to expect and how to make the process easier for you. Call for free and confidential consultation today at (559) 443-7442.