Embezzlement: California Penal Code 503

Embezzlement or employee theft is stealing from your employer.

In California, this is a serious fraud crime carried out by employees who are familiar with the organization and exploit that knowledge for illegal gain.

By definition, embezzlement is the “illegal transfer of money or property for personal use.” The significant difference between embezzlement (employee theft) and other kinds of theft is that embezzled property is legally possessed or accessed by the person doing the embezzling; usually as part of the job responsibilities.

  • Credit card fraud
  • False records (invoices or accounts) to conceal a theft
  • Stealing small amounts of money or property over time
  • Theft involving a large amount of money at once

California Embezzlement Law

Under California Law, an employee fraud or embezzlement theft crime can be serious depending on the value of the property stolen and/or the criminal record of the defendant. An embezzlement crime may be charged as a misdemeanor or felony.

  • Embezzlement charges can be filed for virtually any amount of money, no matter how small.
  • An employer accusing you embezzlement can try to withhold your wages until your case is resolved.
  • In most cases, an audit will be conducted to uncover the facts of the case.

Embezzlement Penalties

Embezzlement sentencing can have life-changing consequences, including jail, prison, fines, counseling and restitution to the victim. The penalties will vary depending on many factors. For example:

  • In most cases, first offenses involving less than $400 are punishable by a small fine, community service, restitution and 3 years of informal probation.
  • A second offense is a much more serious matter. It can be charged as Felony Theft (also called petty theft with a prior) and is punishable by a year in county jail or even 16 months to 3 years in state prison.
  • When a person steals goods worth over $400 or money exceeding $400, it is a serious Grand Theft offense and can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. With Grand Theft, you could be facing:
    • At least 16 months in state prison.
    • Probation or parole
    • Restitution (paying back victims for their loss)
    • Court-ordered counseling
    • Fines

(Note: The outcome of your criminal case will also depend on the defendant’s prior criminal history.)

An embezzlement charge can also carry consequences regardless of the guilt or innocence of the defendant because accusations are embarrassing and can carry a lasting social stigma and limit future employment opportunities.

David Steven ChesleyReviewsout of 125 reviews