Embezzlement charges can be filed when large or small sums of money are taken
Famed California lawyer Michael Avenatti — the man who made it his goal to take down President Donald Trump — was recently arrested on a number of criminal charges related to fraud and embezzlement. These charges made national news, as it wasn’t so long ago that Avenatti was suggesting that he would run for president in 2020.
Avenatti was charged with violating federal law, yet embezzlement is a common crime that occurs far-too-often across California. So what exactly is embezzlement — and how can you avoid being charged with this crime?
Under California law, the crime of embezzlement occurs when a person fraudulently appropriates property that belongs to someone else and has been entrusted to you. This definition sounds complicated, yet in practice, embezzlement is a simple concept. As a criminal defense lawyer Orange County, CA can explain, embezzlement can be as simple as a home health care worker being asked to deposit money in the bank on behalf of an elderly patient — and the worker deciding to keep it for herself instead. The property (money) was entrusted to the worker, it belonged to someone else, and the worker fraudulently appropriates it.
In California, embezzlement is a type of theft. It is charged as either grand theft or petty theft, depending on the value and type of property taken. If the property is worth more than $950, a vehicle, or a firearm, then it will be charged as grand theft. This is a wobbler offense, which means that it can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor crime. If it is charged as a felony, it is punishable by up to 3 years in jail. If it is charged as a misdemeanor, it is punishable by up to 1 year in county jail. If the property is worth less than $950, it will be charged as petty theft. This is a misdemeanor charge, punishable by up to 6 months in county jail.
While it can be challenging to defend against embezzlement charges, there are a number of potential defenses. For example, there may be a situation where you believed that you had a right to the property. Consider the home health care worker case above. What if the elderly patient was confused, and gave conflicting instructions about the money? She may have said that it was the worker’s payment — and later thought that she told the worker to put it in the bank. In this case, the worker had a good faith belief that she was entitled to the money. A skilled criminal defense lawyer Orange County, CA could use this as a defense to embezzlement charges.
If you have been charged with a crime, including embezzlement, you will need a highly skilled lawyer to represent you. At the Chambers Law Firm, our team of legal professionals has a broad range of experience in defending clients against California criminal charges. Contact us today at 855-397-0210 or firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an appointment — free of charge — with a criminal defense lawyer Orange County, CA.