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Embezzlement Laws (PC 503) in California

California Penal Code 503/504: Embezzlement

Legal Definition: Embezzlement is the fraudulent appropriation of property by a person to whom it has been entrusted.

For a person to be convicted of a violation of PC 503, the prosecution must prove the following:

1. An owner or the owner’s agent entrusted their property to you;

2. The owner or owner’s agent did so because they trusted you;

3. You then fraudulently converted/used that property for your own benefit


4. When you converted/used the property, you intended to deprive the owner of its use.

What does this mean?

A person acts fraudulently when he or she takes undue advantage of another person or causes a loss to that person by breaching a duty, trust, or confidence. In other words, a common example is a cashier at a grocery store, who, every time she makes a transaction within the cash register, takes out $20, and leaves it next to her, to take it. She’s entrusted to ring up items, but instead, steals the money that should be put into the cash register.

An intent to deprive the owner of the property, even temporarily, is enough. The intent to restore the property to its owner is not a defense. An agent is someone to whom the owner has given complete or partial authority and control over the owner’s property.


Embezzlement is a wobbler offense, meaning you can be charged with it as a misdemeanor or as a felony offense. If you are convicted of this crime as a misdemeanor, you could be sentenced to upwards of one year in the County Jail. If you are convicted of this charge as a felony, you could be sentenced to upwards of 16 months, two or three years in State Prison. The factors that go into whether or not you are charged with this offense as a misdemeanor or as a felony, are based on the specific facts of your case, the amount of loss, and your criminal history.

This is not a strike offense, under the California Three Strike Law. However, it is a Crime of Moral Turpitude, because it involves theft from a place you were entrusted to do business. Thus, people who are in the United States on a temporary basis will be deported upon a conviction under this section. Likewise, people who possess a Professional License could be suspended, or lose their license based on a conviction under this section.

In addition, the amount lost will be added as Restitution that is owed back to the victim of the case. This does not include the necessary fines and fees, which could total upwards of $10,000.

Common Defenses

  1. Statute of Limitations
  2. Insufficient Evidence
  3. Violation of your Rights
  4. Claim of Right
  5. Coerced Confessions

As stated above, if you simply took the money with the intent to return it, such as simply borrowing, that is not a defense to this crime. The crime is committed once you take the money, for example. However, if the money that you took, was money you had a claim of right to, then you would be able to defend against this charge. With that, it means that the money you took, was money either owed to you or your own money. Same as, if you bring money into your work, and a manager sees that money, you are not at fault because they are assuming that you took the money – it was yours from the start. 

Similar if there, is not enough evidence because maybe you took the money by accident. Or maybe you are in charge of putting money in the bank, and on the way to the bank, you end up in the hospital after a car accident. It would not be embezzlement because you did not deposit the money, because clearly, you had no intent to deprive the owner of their money, you simply got into a car accident.

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Embezzlement charges, particularly under PC 503, carry implications that extend far beyond the confines of a courtroom. While not all cases result in lengthy incarcerations, the potential for significant jail time escalates with the amount embezzled, especially in instances involving substantial sums within corporate settings. The inability to make restitution can dramatically increase the severity of the consequences, potentially leading to state prison terms.

Why Inland Empire Criminal Defense?

  • Focused Expertise on Fraud and Theft Offenses: Our PC 503 Ontario criminal defense attorney brings a wealth of experience in handling embezzlement, fraud, and theft offenses. This specialized knowledge ensures a defense strategy that’s both nuanced and effective, tailored to the complexities of your case.
  • Comprehensive Legal Representation: Understanding the severe ramifications of embezzlement charges—including the risks of deportation and the loss of professional licenses—our approach is rigorous and empathetic. We’re committed to articulating your side of the story, aiming for the best possible outcome, including the dismissal of charges.
  • Round-the-Clock Accessibility: From the moment of your free initial consultation, you’ll find our team ready to support you, answer your questions, and guide you through the legal process, ensuring you’re never left in the dark about your case.

Start Your Defense Journey Today

Facing embezzlement charges under PC 503 demands a defense that comprehends the stakes involved. With Inland Empire Criminal Defense, you gain a partner poised to fight for your rights, livelihood, and future.

Secure Expert Legal Counsel Now

Don’t let embezzlement charges dictate the course of your life. Reach out to Inland Empire Criminal Defense at 909-939-7126 to embark on a defense path that prioritizes your best interests. Located in Ontario, CA, our firm is strategically positioned to serve clients across the Inland Empire with top-tier legal representation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Absolutely, Inland Empire Criminal Defense prioritizes your privacy and confidentiality. Every consultation with our attorney is conducted with the utmost discretion, ensuring your information remains secure and private.

Yes, understanding the financial pressures that can come with legal representation, our attorney offers flexible payment plans. This approach ensures that quality legal defense is accessible for all our clients in Riverside, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles Counties.

Yes, Inland Empire Criminal Defense offers free consultations. This is part of our commitment to providing accessible and transparent legal services to residents of Riverside, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles Counties.

We offer both in-person and over-the-phone consultations to accommodate your preferences and needs. Whether you’re in Riverside, San Bernardino, or Los Angeles County, we ensure that you can access our legal services in the way that suits you best.

Our office is typically closed on weekends. However, we do make exceptions for meetings by special arrangement. Our commitment is to be as accommodating as possible to meet the unique needs of our clients in Riverside, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles Counties.

Our legal services are specifically tailored to residents of Riverside, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles Counties. For cases outside these areas, we recommend consulting to find appropriate legal assistance. Our focused approach allows us to provide specialized defense catering to the unique legal landscape of these counties.

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