California criminal law makes it an offense for anyone to file, register, or record false documents with state offices. The filing of the false documents will get you arrested and charged under California Penal Code 115. The offense of filing false documents is charged as a felony, and it attracts severe legal consequences, including a prison sentence and hefty fines. If you or your loved one is battling these charges in court, you could require the expertise and guidance from The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm. Our team of defense lawyers has extensive experience in defending clients charged white-collar crimes in Los Angeles.

Overview of California Penal Code 115

If you willfully file false documents, you can get arrested and charged under California Penal Code 115. Before you get convicted for this offense, the prosecutor must prove the following elements of the crime:

  1. You Offered or Caused a Document to be Filed

You could be found guilty of filing a forged document if you offered a document for filing, registration, or recording. Offering a document means that you presented it as original to the government office. Also, if you caused the document to be registered, you can get convicted for this offense.

Even when a document you presented doesn’t get filed, you can still face these charges. Additionally, you could be guilty of this offense even when you did not personally submit it. Compelling another person to present a false document is enough to get you convicted.

  1. The Document was Forged

There is a wide variety of documents that could be involved in Penal Code 115 criminal charges. You are charged with filing false documents if the government relies on these to make decisions. Also, the information you provided must affect a third party materially when it is used. Before making a conviction, the prosecutor should show that the document was false and impact other people.

  1. You Knew that The Document was False

You could not get convicted for forging a false document if you did not know that it was false. Sometimes you could mistakenly present a document without knowledge of its content. Since it is difficult to demonstrate the exact intent of an individual, the prosecutor relies on circumstantial evidence to establish this element. In this case, a skilled criminal defense attorney could dispute the merit of the prosecutor’s evidence and have you acquitted.

Legal Penalties for Filing False Documents

In California, filing false documents is charged as a felony. If you filed different false documents, you would get charged with multiple counts of the offense. Even if the documents are related or represent similar interests, you will face penalties for each offense. The potential penalties you will face if convicted under Penal Code 115 include:


Since filing false documents is charged as a felony, the court could subject you to formal probation. When you get sentenced to formal probation, you must follow all the terms of probation, including:

  • Regular check-in with a probation officer

  • Avoid involvement in other crimes

  • Paying all the court-imposed fines

If you violate any of the terms of probation, you can get rearrested and charged with the offense of probation violation. In California, probation is often an alternative to a prison sentence. Not all individuals accused of filing false documents will be granted probation. You cannot receive a probation sentence under the following circumstances:

  • If you are a penal Code 115 repeat offender

  • If you have committed more than one count of Penal Code 115, and the victims of your actions suffered a loss of $100,000 or more.

Prison Sentence

A conviction for filing false documents attracts a prison sentence ranging from sixteen months to three years.


If you are convicted of filing false documents in California, you may be required to pay monetary fines of up to ten thousand dollars $10,000.

Penalty Enhancement for Filing Forged Documents

Under certain circumstances, the court could impose an enhanced penalty. Some of the factors that could attract an increased sentence include:

  1. If the document you presented affected a title deed or mortgage of a family with more than four units, you will get an additional fine of up to seventy-five thousand dollars

  2. When the victims have suffered a loss of $65,000, your prison sentence could be increased to four years

  3. You could also receive a white-collar crime enhancement of a five-year prison sentence or pay $500,000 in fines

You can also receive a penalty enhancement if:

  • You are charged with two or more felonies for closely related crimes

  • The felonies you are accused of committing show a distinct pattern of criminal conduct

  • The offense you committed affected more than two individuals 

  • Your actions resulted in more than $10,000 loses 

Immigration Consequences of Filing False Documents in California

Crimes that involve moral turpitude have a significant impact on your immigration status. If the prosecutor can prove that you filed false documents with an intent to commit fraud, the offense is considered a crime of moral turpitude. Moral turpitude crimes subjects immigrants to the following consequences:

  • If you are convicted of filing false documents with a fraudulent intention within five years of getting admitted to the United States, you could face deportation.

  • If you have a prior conviction Under California Penal Code 115, another conviction can trigger deportation

  • You could be rendered inadmissible for a first conviction regardless of when it occurs. Being inadmissible means that after you leave the United States, you cannot come back or apply for a green card.

If you are in a profession like medicine or law, a conviction for a crime of moral turpitude affects your ability to get a license.

Legal Defenses against California Penal Code 115

Getting arrested for filing false documents is not the end of the road for you. There is a wide variety of legal defenses available to fight penal Code 115 charges. A competent legal defense attorney could review your case and device a strategy to exploit the following defenses:

  • You did not Know the False Nature of the Documents

One of the crucial elements of the case is that a prosecutor needs to establish your knowledge of the forged documents. Sometimes when presenting charges against you, the prosecutor may assume that you knew the nature of the documents. This defense can be used if you presented a document on your employer’s behalf and didn’t know its intended purpose. If your attorney can clearly show that you didn’t know the documents you presented were a force, you cannot get convicted for filing forged documents.

  • You had the Government’s or Alleged Victim’ Permission to Present the Document

Filing false documents charges often arise from real estate or property deals. In most cases, prosecutors charge you under California Penal Code 115, believing that you deceived another person by presenting a particular document. This is because the victim may be unlearned or elderly and cannot differentiate between legitimate and false documents.

However, this is not always the case; a person may have permitted you to use the document but forgot about it. Sometimes people change their minds on the consent and claim that the document you presented was forged. You can avoid a conviction Under Penal Code 115 if you can show proof of consent from the alleged victim.

  • Mistake of Facts

Sometimes one could present a document without knowing its nature or its purpose. The mistake of facts could be a valid defense for you if you filed a document that you thought was valid but was false. In such a case, likely, you did not have an intent to defraud the victim. With the guidance of a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney, you can successfully use this defense to avoid criminal charges.

  • Claim that you presented the Document by Accident

There are situations in which several drafts of a document are made before the final copy. In such a case, it is easy to file a wrong document mistakenly. If your accident picks the wrong draft copy, you can claim that you presented it by accident. If the facts are clear and the document you presented was a copy of the correct document, you can fight the charges and evade the penalties.

  • False Accusations

It is common that people get accused and convicted for offenses they did not commit. This often occurs when deals involving financial gain go sour. Business and property disputes could compel an individual to accuse you of presenting forged documents falsely. If you or your loved one is a victim of false accusations, it would be wise to contact a competent criminal defense attorney.

Expunging your Criminal Record after a Conviction for Filing Forged Documents

In California, filing forged documents is charged as a felony. Having a felony conviction on your record can weigh you down by making it difficult to obtain employment and a place to live. This is because landlords and potential employers will carry out a background check on you. Fortunately, there is a process through which you can wipe out your conviction to give you a better chance of succeeding.

California law allows you to apply for a petition to expunge your criminal record. If the petition is granted, your conviction is set aside, and the negative impact doesn’t follow you. Not everyone qualifies for criminal record expungement. Therefore, you must navigate the process with competent legal guidance. 

Before you are granted an expungement in California, you must have completed your probation sentence, and you should not have other pending criminal cases. If you violate a term of probation, you likely get denied an expungement. Your sentence should not involve spending time in state prison, and you have satisfied all the requirements of your sentence. The following are benefits you will accrue from expunging your Penal Code 115 conviction:

  • Better chances of obtaining employment. Most employers are cautious when offering jobs to individuals with a criminal record. However, when the court erases history, the conviction cannot be used to deny you a job opportunity.

  • When your record gets expunged, you can answer ‘NO’ when asked about prior felony convictions.

  • You can obtain professional licenses. Getting convicted for filing forged documents will affect your ability to obtain practice licenses. However, an expungement wipes out the record and its effects on your career.

  • Other than the legal consequences that accompany a felony conviction, it is likely that your personal life and relationships get affected. After relief from the conviction, you will have the satisfaction of forgetting the past and moving forward to make more positive relationships.

Getting an expungement for a felony conviction could be complicated. Therefore, it is crucial to seek legal guidance.

Offenses Related to Penal Code 115 of California

Filing of forged documents is often associated with other offenses. Some of these offenses are charged in place of or together with the filing of forged documents:

  1. Forgery 

Under California Penal Code 470, a forgery is an act of alteration or falsification of documents with an intent to defraud. There are many ways in which you can commit fraud, including:

  • Signing another person’s name without their consent

  • Counterfeiting a seal or forging another person’s handwriting 

  • Falsifying or changing the contents of a legal document

The documents that mostly suffer forgery in California are checks, money orders, lottery tickets, stock certificates, and property deeds. If you face charges for filing false documents with an intent to defraud, you can get convicted for forgery instead of Penal Code 115. However, the prosecutor must prove the following elements before you get convicted for forgery:

  • You committed any of the above acts

  • Your intent to defraud. Your intent to defraud is known when you deceive another person so you can gain financial gain. Even when no one suffered substantial financial loss, your actions could be considered fraudulent.

In California, the offense of forgery is a wobbler and can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. The charges’ nature will depend on the financial loss suffered by the victims and your criminal history. If you forged a cheese whose value does not exceed $950, you would face a felony conviction. When charged as a misdemeanor, the offense attracts the following penalties:

  • Summary probation

  • A jail sentence of up to one year

  • Fines not exceeding $1,000

On the other hand, a felony conviction has legal consequences that include:

  • Formal probation

  • A prison sentence of up to three years

  • Fines amounting to $10,000

Like filing of false documents, forgery is a crime of moral turpitude, and a conviction has adverse effects on your immigration status.

  1. Perjury

Under Penal Code 118 of California, perjury charges arise when you willfully give false information while under oath. For this offense, an oath is an affirmation to provide a truthful statement. When making a conviction for this offense, a prosecutor is required to prove these elements:

  1. You took an oath to give correct information. An oath is often taken when you are testifying in court or are signing an affidavit.

  2. You willfully gave information and claimed it was true even when you knew it wasn’t. The statement could either be in writing or verbal.

  3. The information you provided was material. A statement is considered material if it was used to determine the outcome of a proceeding.

  4. You knew that you were stating under oath, but you still gave the wrong information

  5. When you made your statement, you intended to give incorrect information. It is not considered perjury if you made a wrong statement but had a good reason to believe that the information you gave was correct.

Perjury is charged as a Felony in California, and a conviction attracts the following legal penalties:

  • Up to four years of imprisonment

  • A maximum of $10,000 in fines

If you filed a forged document to be used as evidence in a court proceeding, you could get charged with perjury and submit a false document. Since perjury is always a felony in California, a conviction will affect your rights and use a firearm. Should you find yourself facing perjury charges, it would be wise to consult with a criminal defense attorney.

  1. Senior Fraud

Senior fraud is commonly known as elder financial abuse, is defrauding an individual of sixty-five years or older. If you mismanage funds or property that belong to an older person, you can get charged with this offense. Some of the daily ways in which you can commit senior fraud are:

  • Failure to pay a debt you owe to an elderly person

  • Making changes to an elder’s power of attorney or will without their consent

  • Making withdrawals using an older person’s ATM card  

Some of the elements that must be proven in a senior fraud case include:

  • You committed a financial crime such as ad forgery fraud or theft

  • The victim of your crime was over the age of sixty-five years

  • You were the caregiver of the victim

  • You knew that the person was an elder

If the prosecutor cannot prove these elements in court, you cannot be convicted for elder financial abuse. The penalties you face for senior fraud will significantly depend on the amount of loss suffered by the alleged victim. When the value is $950 or less, you will be charged with a misdeemed while losses exceeding $950 attract felony charges.

A felony senior fraud conviction attracts a prison sentence of up to four years of fines and formal probation. Also, you will receive a strike on your record. If convicted as a misdemeanor, you will be required to pay a maximum of $1,000 in fines, informal probation, and a one-year jail sentence.

  1. Grand Theft

If you file false documents that cause a financial loss of $950, you can get charged with grand theft, along with Penal Code 115. Grand theft can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the circumstances surrounding your case. A felony conviction for this offense attracts a prison sentence ranging from sixteen months to three years. Also, you may be subjected to formal probation for one year.

  1. Filing a False Report on Auto Theft

California law makes it a crime to file a false report of a stolen vehicle to commit fraud. The offense is charged under Vehicle Code 10501 and is charged as a misdemeanor. Filing a forged document claiming theft of an automobile can attract criminal charges. However, it is crucial to understand that you cannot get charged with filing a false report on auto theft in conjunction with Penal Code 115. If you get arrested for filing a false report of car theft, you can only get charged under Vehicle Code 10501. If you are battling charges related to the filing of false documents, some legal guidance will go a long way.

Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

Filing false documents is a serious offense that attracts severe legal penalties in California. The prosecutor needs to prove that you willingly participated in presenting the false documents before you get convicted. There are instances when a case of accidentally presenting false documents or false accusations can get you convicted under California Penal Code 115.

Fortunately, not all arrests result in a conviction. There are several defenses that your attorney can exploit to help you avoid harsh penalties. If you or your loved one is under investigation or has been arrested for filing false documents, contact The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm. If you are in Los Angeles, call us today at 310-935-1675 and allow us to guide you through the case.