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Caught Stealing From an Employer?

by Shelby Wall

What Happens If I Get Caught Stealing From Work?

Employee theft and fraud can occur in various ways, whether you’re caught stealing time or money. Five common forms of this crime include: 

  • Theft: Stealing resources, money, or property from your work.
  • Kickbacks: Accepting money or gifts in exchange for preferential treatment. This is sometimes called bribery.
  • Payroll fraud: Stealing time by falsely altering your timesheets to appear to have spent more time working. 
  • Benefits fraud: Fraudulently using company benefits. For example, using a sick day when you are healthy.
  • Embezzlement: Utilizing your position of trust to steal money from your work.

Whether your reasons for stealing from your work were to provide food for your children or to buy a new car, the punishments can be harsh. 

In Orange County, California Penal Code Section 503 defines embezzlement according to the state. California labels embezzlement as a white-collar offense. However, the courts consider it a wobbler, which means the prosecutor could charge you with a misdemeanor or a felony. 

Generally, if you embezzled less than $950, you will be charged with a misdemeanor. However, you could also face charges of grand theft, § 487 PC, or petty theft, § 484 PC.

The consequences of your crime largely depend upon the details of your case. For example, consider the following charges and their potential consequences:

  • Petty theft: Fines of up to $1,000 or up to six months of imprisonment.
  • Grand theft:
  • Felony embezzlement: Fines of up to $10,000 or up to three years in state prison, 
  • Misdemeanor embezzlement: Fines of up to $1,000 or up to six months in a county jail

Can You Be Fired for Stealing Without Proof?

Theft is a serious accusation. California is an at-will state, and if you are an at-will employee, your employer can fire you without giving a specific reason, even if you believe it is because they suspect you of theft. As an at-will employer, they can fire you for suspected theft even if you did not steal. However, you may have some rights and recourse in this situation.

Employee Rights When Accused of Theft

When accused of theft, you have certain employee rights. In this situation, there are two possibilities: either the employer accuses you of theft and can prove their allegations, or they cannot.

If your employer accuses you of theft but has no proof of your crime, you may be able to sue your employer for defamation. At a minimum, you should speak with an Orange County, CA, criminal defense attorney about your options. 

If your employer accuses you of theft and can prove you stole from the company, you should speak with a lawyer to determine your legal options. One potential defense includes proving that your mistake was honest and reasonable. Your lawyer can help you devise this defense.

Caught Stealing From Work? Call a California Criminal Defense Attorney.

If you are caught stealing in the workplace, a CA criminal defense attorney can help. With over 45 years of experience as an Orange County criminal defense lawyer, attorney Ronald G. Brower understands the laws surrounding theft at work and can help protect your rights. Contact us to arrange your consultation.

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