A Board-Certified Specialist In Criminal Law By The California Board Of Legal Specialization

Understanding (and contesting) the elements of embezzlement

On Behalf of | Jun 7, 2024 | Embezzlement, White Collar Crimes

Financial criminal charges like embezzlement can be devastating. They have the potential to derail careers and reputations, so defending against them is vital.

If you’re a professional in California facing embezzlement charges, you should know what the prosecution must prove to establish guilt and how to defend against allegations. 

The four elements of embezzlement

Under California law, the prosecution must establish four key elements to secure an embezzlement conviction:

  • Trust: The owner must have entrusted their property to you, demonstrating a relationship of trust.
  • Fraudulent intent: You must have fraudulently used or converted the property for personal gain.
  • Benefit at the owner’s expense: The act must result in your benefit and the owner’s loss.
  • Intent to deprive: There must be an intention to deprive the owner of the property’s use, either temporarily or permanently.

These elements form the foundation of an embezzlement case in California.

Challenging the accusations

A robust defense strategy often involves challenging the elements above. For instance, you and your legal team could contest the existence of a fiduciary relationship or your intentions. By meticulously dissecting each component, you can mount an aggressive defense that questions the validity of the prosecution’s evidence.

Beyond challenging the four elements of embezzlement, other defenses can play a crucial role in your case:

  • Acting under duress: Establishing that someone forced or threatened you into committing
  • Faulty police procedures: Arguing police obtained evidence through improper procedures
  • Lack of proof: Demonstrating that there is insufficient evidence to support the accusations
  • Mistake of fact: Proving that a genuine mistake led to the misappropriation
  • Improper charges: Showing discrepancies in the investigation, like the amount of money involved

These strategies highlight the importance of a detailed examination of the prosecution’s case and the evidence they present. A strong defense will scrutinize every aspect of the accusation to protect your rights and future.

It is imperative to remember that the burden of proof lies with the prosecution. As such, an aggressive defense with effective legal counsel that challenges the evidence against you can be essential for protecting your rights and future.