Embezzlement is one of those criminal offenses that most people have heard of but know little about unless they are suddenly charged with it. If you have been charged with embezzlement in San Diego you could be facing serious penalties if convicted. Only an experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney can provide you with specific advice about your case; however, a basic understanding of the crime of embezzlement may be helpful for now.
Embezzlement is simply a specific type of theft. Just as the crime of burglary is a theft that occurs under specific circumstances, so is embezzlement. What separates embezzlement from other types of theft is that the defendant must have originally been in rightful possession of the property allegedly stolen. More specifically, embezzlement has three elements that the prosecution must prove:
- Fiduciary relationship – the defendant must have been in a fiduciary relationship, or relationship of trust, with the victim.
- Entrusted with property – as a result of the fiduciary relationship, the victim must have entrusted the defendant with property, assets, cash, or something of value.
- Intent to deprive – the defendant must have had the intent to deprive the victim of the value of the property/asset that was entrusted to the defendant by keeping, or not returning, the property to the victim.
So how do these elements present themselves in a real life scenario? Consider a couple of common examples:
- You deposit funds into an account set up by your stock broker. Your broker has access to the account in order to make investments with the funds. Everything appears to be going well until you realize that the broker has not actually been investing the funds that she has withdrawn from the account. Instead, she has funneled the funds into her own offshore account.
- You own a small store that sells collectibles. Employees have access to the cash register of necessity. Over a period of time you realize that small amounts of income are missing each day. It turns out that an employee was failing to deposit those small amounts in the cash register when a sale was wrung up and was, instead, pocketing the cash.
In San Diego, embezzlement can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. As a general rule, the value of the merchandise embezzled determines whether it is a felony or misdemeanor. If the value of the property was over $950 embezzlement is charged as a felony while property valued at under $950 gives rise to misdemeanor embezzlement charges. If, however, the property embezzled was a firearm or a vehicle you will face felony embezzlement charges regardless of the actual value of the property.
If you have been charged with embezzlement in San Diego contact an experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to find out what defenses you may have to the charges.