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Embezzlement is a particular type of theft crime that has traditionally been viewed as a more serious offense than basic theft because it involves a violation of trust. Often referred to in Oakland as a “white collar crime,” embezzlement may be treated as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the circumstances.

In many cases, a charge of embezzlement may arise from a misunderstanding between two parties. In that case, a skilled fraud attorney could raise many arguments, in order to contest the resultant charges.

Embezzlement involves a breach of trust and should be taken seriously even if the amount of money or property involved is small. Anyone facing embezzlement charges is advised to consult an experienced Oakland embezzlement lawyer who could devise the best defensive strategy for the facts of the particular case. If you need an attorney for embezzlement charges in Oakland or nearby, contact our team at The Nieves Law Firm to schedule a free consultation.

Definition of Embezzlement

The statutory definition of embezzlement is brief and based on ancient common law. Under Section 503 of the California Penal Code, embezzlement consists of “the fraudulent appropriation of property by a person to whom it has been entrusted.” Based on the way courts have interpreted this statute, there are several elements prosecutors must establish in order to prove that someone committed embezzlement.

Factors Involved in an Oakland Case

First, it must be shown that the property was entrusted to the care of the person charged with the offense. This creates a fiduciary relationship between the parties. In many cases, the property at issue is money, and the individual charged with embezzling funds is an employee who was responsible for managing or handling that money, such as an accountant or cashier. The element of trust is a key component of the crime.

Second, it must be shown that the person charged with embezzlement fraudulently appropriated the property for personal use. Generally, an activity is considered fraudulent when it involves deceit or deception.

As an example, if a bookkeeper created false records hiding the fact that funds were taken for personal use, that would be fraudulent appropriation. If instead that bookkeeper asked to borrow funds and recorded that taking in the records, it could be argued that the appropriation was not fraudulent.

Finally, the person taking the property must have intended to deprive the owner of that property. This has been interpreted to mean that the deprivation need not be permanent but only temporary. Therefore, an employee that borrows money without permission may be convicted of embezzlement even if that employee fully intends to replace the funds.

Penalties for This Offense

The basic penalties for embezzlement are similar to those applicable in larceny cases and are based on the value of the property taken. If that property is worth $950 or less, the crime is treated like a “petty” theft which is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum sentence of six months in jail, plus a fine of up to $1,000.

In cases where the property is worth more than $950, the offense may be treated as a felony. If punished as a felony, an embezzlement conviction carries much higher penalties. Those convicted face up to three years in prison and the sentence can be higher if aggravating circumstances are present. An attorney for embezzlement could help you determine the exact penalties you are subject to depending on the specific crimes you are accused of.

Let an Oakland Embezzlement Attorney Be an Advocate

There are many defense strategies that embezzlement attorneys use to fight these criminal charges. It may be argued that the individual charged had no intent to deprive the owner of the property, such as in a case where an employee has equipment moved for repairs or examination. Or it may be argued that funds were expended with the consent of the owner or under the belief of entitlement.

If you are facing or being investigated for these charges, an Oakland embezzlement lawyer could evaluate the circumstances of your case and create the right defense strategy. Call now to learn how their experience could work for you.

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