I. LEGAL DEFINITION
PC 424. Any individual whose job includes receiving, transferring, or distributing public funds, commits embezzlement or accounts falsification when he or she:
- Without legal authority, takes some of the funds for his or her personal use, or the personal use of another person.
- Without legal authority, loans make a profit from or use some of the funds.
- Knowingly keeps false accounts, makes a false entry in the accounts, or deletes a deposit of the funds in the accounts.
- Fraudulently changes falsify, hides, destroys or obliterates (I.e., wipes out) the accounting of the funds.
- Upon lawful request by a competent authority to disburse the funds, he or she purposefully refuses or fails to disburse them.
- Purposefully fails to transfer the funds when the transfer was required by law.
- Despite having a legal duty to disburse the funds, he or she purposefully fails or refuses to disburse the funds to a person who is legally authorized to receive said funds.
A conviction for a violation of PC 424 can result in a sentence of up to four years in state prison, a fine of up to $10,000, and in disqualification from holding any public office in California. The use of incidental or minimal use of public resources may not be prosecuted.
In order to be found guilty of PC 424, the prosecutor must show:
- That your job responsibilities included receiving, transferring, or distributing public funds (E.g., a mayor, a facility manager of the county’s transportation authority, the clinical director of a private medical facility that receives public funds to provide health care services in a remote area)
- In the course of your job, and without authorization, you intentionally misused some of the public funds that you were handling, or you falsified or destroyed the records of the accounts where those public funds were kept.
- When you misused the funds or destroyed the records, you knew – or should have known – what the law required that you do in connection with the use of the funds or the record-keeping in connection with those funds.
II. WHAT DOES IT MEAN
If you are entrusted with receiving, transferring, or distributing public funds, you are not allowed to use those funds in any way other than for the purpose and in the manner for which the law authorizes you to handle those funds. You are also required to keep a truthful and accurate accounting of the funds.
PC 424 punishes the mishandling of public funds, and it applies to elected officials, public employees, and private citizens who are entrusted with handling public funds.
Under PC 424, it is a crime 1) to use the funds for one’s personal benefit, 2) to loan the funds for one’s benefit, or use them for any purpose not authorized by law, 3) to knowingly create a fake account for the funds, create a false account entry, or delete an actual account entry, 4) to fraudulently alter, conceal, or destroy any account, 5) to refuse to use, or omit to use, the funds upon demand by an authorized party, 6) to refuse to transfer the funds when the transfer is required under the law, and 7) to refuse to pay, or omit to pay, the funds to a person duly authorized to receive the funds.
- The city council allocate to the mayor $100,000 of the city’s budget, specifically to develop and promote a leadership program for underprivileged kids interested in pursuing a career in government / public office. The mayor awards the contract to his/her relative’s consulting agency, which the mayor knows will charge the city for non-existent services, and will deposit half of the funds received in the mayor’s re-election campaign funds. The mayor is guilty of embezzlement.
- The county allocates $300,000 per year to the office in charge of the car fleet specifically to purchase spare parts that are subject to unusually rapid wear-and-tear and that need quick replacement in order to keep the county’s fleet operational during severe weather conditions. After a winter storm that required the crew of mechanics to work particularly hard over a holiday weekend, the fleet manager charges $100 on the county’s credit card to buy coffee and doughnuts for the crew of mechanics, as a gesture of appreciation for the mechanics’ hard work. The fleet manager is not guilty of embezzlement because he/she made minimal use of the county’s funds.
PC 424 is a felony that can be punished with a sentence of two, three, or four years in state prison, and you would have to serve at least 50% of your time in custody. Further, you would be ordered to pay both a fine of up to $10,000 and restitution of the misappropriated funds. Finally, you would receive a permanent ban from holding any public office in California.
Embezzlement is a felony, but it is neither a strike, not a super strike. However, Embezzlement / Account Falsification is a crime of moral turpitude, and a person convicted of PC 424, and who is not a U.S. citizen, may face harsh immigration-related consequences.
- Insufficient Evidence. The most common defense used in criminal defense is that there simply isn’t enough evidence to convict you of the charge. Perhaps an overzealous police officer or prosecutor misinterpreted the evidence, or somebody – a political opponent, a jealous colleague, or a resentful employee – falsely reported you to the city or county’s auditor, or to the police. When you retain us as your PC 424 attorneys, we would verify whether the prosecution has enough evidence to prove the case, including whether the amount involved is over the incidental/minimal amount that the law allows you to use and shields you from the consequences of criminal prosecution.
- Violation of Your Rights. This could happen in many ways, such as when the police arrest you and ask you questions without first reading you the Miranda Warning. In PC 424 cases, assuming the prosecution has sufficient evidence to prove each element of the crime, we would review the facts to determine whether the police obtained the evidence lawfully. For example, the police may have obtained your bank records without having first secured a search warrant.
Embezzlement is a serious charge that can have devastating consequences on your reputation, both personal and professional, may cost you a lot of money in fines, and might cause you to spend some time in county jail or state prison. Therefore it is crucial that you immediately contact our PC 424 attorneys if you have concerns that you may be investigated for embezzlement or account falsification. If charges have not yet been filed, we will immediately contact the assigned investigators and prosecutors to assess if law enforcement has sufficient evidence to even file charges, so that we may minimize the risks to your reputations, finances, and freedom. You, or your loved ones, cannot take a chance on such a serious charge. Our Ontario PC 424 attorneys have successfully defended thousands of people charged with crimes throughout the entire Inland Empire. Call your local Ontario Criminal Defense Attorney today at the Inland Empire Defense 909-939-7126. Located in Ontario.