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Embezzlement is described in Penal Code 503 as the fraudulent appropriation of property by someone to whom it has been entrusted. Embezzlement has the special requirement that the property taken had been entrusted to you by the rightful owner. Essentially, a defendant legally possessed the property, but decided to take it for his or her own use without permission.

            Things like abuse of a company expense account, transferring employee funds to a personal account, or a cashier stealing cash from the cash register drawer are all common examples of embezzlement.


California Penal Code 503 describes embezzlement as “the fraudulent appropriation of property by a person to whom it has been entrusted.” For the prosecuting agency to successfully convict a defendant for embezzlement, they must prove the following:

  • The defendant was entrusted with property by the owner;
  • The owner did so because they had trust in the defendant;
  • The defendant fraudulently converted or used property for their own benefit;
  • The defendant had intent to deprive owner from the property’s use.

Embezzlement is a crime which requires the defendant to have had intent; specifically, the defendant must have had the intent to deprive the rightful owner of the property. Even temporary intent is sufficient. Finally, having the intent to return the property later is not a valid defense, unless the property is returned before charges are filed.


The conviction penalties for embezzlement relies on the total value of the property taken. If the property is valued at $950 or less, then it is a Penal Code 484 petty theft crime, which is punishable by up to six months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. However, if the value is over $950, or if the property is a firearm or vehicle, then it is a Penal Code 487 grand theft crime, which is a “wobbler,” meaning the prosecution agency can charge as a misdemeanor or felony punishable by up to 3 years in jai and a fine up to $10,000. Felony convictions also carry other ramifications, such as losing the right to own or possess firearms.


  • PC 504 – embezzlement by a public officer
  • PC 424 – misappropriation of public funds
  • PC 459 – burglary
  • PC 470 – forgery
  • PC 484 – petty theft
  • PC 487 – grand theft
  • PC 496 – receiving stolen property


If you, or someone you know, has been accused of embezzlement under California Penal Code 503, our experienced team of criminal defense lawyers can employ a number of tactics to attempt to have the charges reduced or dismissed. Examples of some common defenses include:

  • Lack of intent,
  • No fraudulent use,
  • Good faith belief,
  • False allegation.

If you are have been charged with, or under criminal investigation for California PC 503, please reach out to our office and our team of experienced and skilled criminal defense lawyers for a consultation.

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