Public money or public funds is the money that the government gathered, mostly via taxes. These are collected by the government from the state through various agencies and services. In return, this is supposed to be used to fund public goods, projects, and services.
Misappropriation of Public Funds
Misappropriation of public funds refers to the act of intentionally using the funds intended to be used for public service personal, often illegal, purposes. This is often related to embezzlement or the fraudulent usage of the government budget.
California Penal Code PC 424 is the law that criminalizes the act of using public funds for fraudulent or unlawful purposes. It states that each officer of this state, or of any county, city, town, or district of this state, and every other person charged with the receipt, safekeeping, transfer, or disbursement of public money, who either:
- Without the authority of law, appropriates the same, or any portion thereof, to his or her own use, or to the use of another; or,
- Loans the same or any portion thereof; makes any profit out of, or uses the same for any purpose not authorized by law; or,
- Knowingly keeps any false account, or makes any false entry or erasure in any account of or relating to the same; or,
- Fraudulently alters, falsifies, conceals, destroys, or obliterates any account; or,
- Willfully refuses or omits to pay over, on-demand, any public money in his or her hands, upon the presentation of a draft, order, or warrant drawn upon the money by a competent authority; or,
- Willfully omits to transfer the same, when the transfer is required by law; or,
- Willfully omits or refuses to pay over to any officer or person authorized by law to receive the same, any money received by him or her under any duty imposed by law so to pay over the same;
- Is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years, and is disqualified from holding any office in this state.
This law does not apply to the incidental and minimal use of public resources authorized by Section 8314 of the Government Code (It is unlawful for any elected state or local officer, including any state or local appointee, employee, or consultant, to use or permit others to use public resources for a campaign activity, or personal or other purposes which are not authorized by law.).
Penalties for Misappropriation of Public Funds
Misappropriating public funds is a felony under California Penal Code PC 424. A felony is the most severe among the levels of criminal severity as compared to infractions and misdemeanors. This crime is punishable by:
- incarceration of up to four (4) years in a California state prison;
- A fine of up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or both.
- If convicted, the public official is barred or disqualified from taking public office.
A violator of PC 424 can opt for formal probation instead of serving his/her sentence in prison. Formal probation is an alternative sentence where the offender can do his/her sentence outside of prison but still under the law's strict supervision. However, if the correctional administrator sees the violator's action as unfitting of the probation, he/she will be sent to prison to continue serving time.
In the state of California, convicted violators of PC 424 can face severe charges due to the nature of their violations Aside from the fines and prison times, he/she can permanently lose the chance of being elected in office. Because of those reasons, it would be in the accused's best interest to hire the assistance of a competent defense lawyer. A good lawyer might include some of these conditions to support the case of the defendant:
- He/she did not have any knowledge of misappropriating and did not act with criminal negligence, or
- The amount that he/she supposedly took was incidental and minimal.
If you or anyone you know ever had the misfortune of being wrongfully accused of violating California Penal Code PC 424, it would be beneficial for your party to seek professional help from our credible roster of criminal defense lawyers.
- California Penal Code PC 67 & 68 – Bribery of Public Officials
- California Penal Code PC 503 – Embezzlement
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