The California PC 470(a) defines forgery as the act of altering genuine documents intending to commit fraud or falsifying documents by creating false ones. There are many forms of forgery carried out in California. The common ones include forging promissory notes, traveler’s checks, contracts, and bank checks. The convictions you may face for the crime of forgery depend on your prior criminal record, circumstances of the case, and the amount of money involved. You may face misdemeanor or felony charges since forgery is a wobbler crime under California law. If you are currently facing forgery charges or undergoing investigation for forgery, you should contact a competent attorney immediately to create your defense. The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm can help you develop a proper defense to fight your forgery charges.
Forgery Under PC 470
In California, there are several ways an individual can carry out forgery under PC 470. These ways include:
Falsifying, forging, or altering certain documents
Signing another person’s name without his or her consent
Falsifying or changing a legal document like title deed, court record, or a will
Forging or counterfeiting a seal on a document or forging another person’s handwriting
Abetting and aiding forgery
Falsifying or Forging Certain Documents
You may commit this type of forgery in California in two different ways. First, submitting or publishing a particular document as if it were original when, in reality, it has been faked, counterfeited, or altered. Second, you are guilty if you counterfeit, change, or falsify several documents involving property rights or financial rights. The documents outlined under PC 470, like certificates, title deeds, contracts, and checks, apply to this type of forgery. However, for the prosecutor to charge you with this type of crime, they must prove some crime elements.
Signing Another Person’s Name
You may face the charges for signing another person’s name without his or her consent if you carry out the following:
Signing even when you knew you had no mandate to do so
Signing another person’s name on a legal or financial document
Falsifying or Changing a Legal Document
You can commit this type of forgery only on legal documents. The documents may include title deed, court record, and a will. You may be guilty of this type of forgery, even without faking a seal, handwriting, or signature. For instance, if you change your parent’s original will with the new one that suits your interest, you may face the charges of forging a legal document intending to pass it off as a genuine document.
Forging a Seal or another Person’s Handwriting
You may commit this type of forgery with any document, not specifically those outlined under PC 470. Any document that executes a fraudulent action qualifies. However, this type of forgery often happens on financial, property rights, and legal documents. You may photocopy a document having a government seal and change its name with your name to secure a military job. In this case, you are guilty of this statute for altering the document and faking a seal.
Abetting and Aiding Forgery
Abetting and aiding another person to commit forgery is prohibited under California’s PC 470. You might face the forgery charges, even if you did not personally forge or present the document. It’s known that to commit this type of forgery, you need technological prowess and sophisticated skills. Therefore, it mainly involves a certain caliber of people, mostly professionals. This statute aims at cutting off this vice and facilitating the easier conviction of the perpetrators. You could face charges under this type of forgery if you do the following:
Encouraging or assisting another person to do forgery
Showing the intention of helping another person to commit forgery
Failing to report while knowing that another person intends to commit forgery
If the prosecutor accuses you of forgery, he or she must prove the following elements:
You committed forgery
You acted with intent to defraud someone else
Penalties for Forgery PC 470
According to California law, forgery is a wobbler crime. That means you could face a felony or a misdemeanor charge. A misdemeanor charge amounts to a fine of $ 1,000 maximum, a sentence of up to one year in county jail, or summary misdemeanor probation. On the other hand, a felony charge amounts to a fine of $ 10,000 maximum, a sentence of up to three years in county jail, or formal felony probation. You will face a misdemeanor charge only if the document forged amounts to $ 950 or less and if the document is either a money order, check, or a similar instrument.
You could also lose your gun rights in California if the court convicts you of forgery under PC 470. The court could charge your forgery crime as a felony or misdemeanor. If the offense is a felony, you will lose your gun rights. You may not have consequences on your gun rights if the crime is a misdemeanor. The law prohibits people convicted of violent felonies from possessing or owning a gun in California.
However, before the court charges you with a felony or a misdemeanor forgery crime, it may consider the case’s facts and your criminal history. The court could also consider mitigating or aggravating factors in your charges. If you are a repeat offender, the court could enhance your charges. If you forge a high-value document, then it is an aggravating factor in forgery cases. The court could assign you a misdemeanor or lesser charges rather than felony charges if it considers mitigating factors. It could be a mitigating factor if you forge a low-value document. Therefore, that could save you from facing felony charges.
If the court convicts you of forgery under this statute, you could also face negative immigration consequences. Under California law, forgery is a crime of moral turpitude. If you are a non-citizen in the United States, you could be either as inadmissible or deported. Inadmissibility means a state of not becoming a U.S citizen through naturalization. Deportation is a forceful removal from the U.S. You should therefore contact a defense attorney as soon as possible if you commit forgery and you are a non-citizen to help you create a defense against your charges.
However, you can receive an expungement according to PC 1203.4, even if the court convicted you of forgery under PC 470. Your attorney may help you apply for the expungement of your charge. An expungement releases the defendant from numerous hardships related to a conviction. You can receive an expungement on the following conditions:
If you complete your jail term
If you complete your probation
It’s important to note that the judge may still award you with expungement if you violate a probation term. However, the judge will use his discretion to grant the expungement.
PC 470 Diversion Programs
If you meet specific requirements in the United States, diversion programs permit you to bypass criminal penalties. However, diversion programs are only available on a county-by-county basis. You may avoid facing check forgery penalties under this program if you meet the following requirements:
Attending intervention session for a whole day
Paying back the victim for the damages suffered or money he or she lost
Defenses to Forgery Charges
If you are facing forgery charges, there are defenses you can employ to fight your charges. A diligent and competent attorney can examine your charges’ facts to create a legal strategy that can produce the best results. Some of the defenses to PC 470 include:
The Handwriting is not Yours
In most forgery cases, the issue of who wrote what is common. This is why handwriting experts are involved whenever a forgery case arises. Handwriting experts come in handy to determine whether you altered the document or not. For the prosecutors to create their case, they also utilize the experts. It’s therefore crucial that you also hire your handwriting expert to counter the prosecution’s handwriting experts. It’s worth noting that the expert’s opinion is not the final word in court since the jury does not always consider the handwriting expert’s opinion.
In several situations, the expert’s opinions could be allowed or rejected by California’s evidentiary rules. A competent attorney can look into the evidence rules to ensure nothing inadmissible will apply to your case. The typical evidence rule involves the samples of handwriting created after filing forgery charges. This rule is purposely used to prohibit any person from presenting samples, which don’t represent the original handwriting after being invited to the criminal hearing or charge.
In California, forgery crimes mostly take place at workplaces and offices. Often forgery perpetrators accuse other individuals of covering up their guilt and mistakes. If it is apparent that you were falsely accused of forgery, you could successfully challenge your charges in court. Most forgery cases in California happen in business dealings and intricate legal procedures. Therefore, it is easy for the real perpetrators to accuse other people falsely. You may argue that you are a victim of false accusations if you are innocent of a forgery offense. The real offender of forgery can be identified if your attorney reveals the hidden evidence.
If your attorney fails to present a convincing defense against your forgery charges before the court, he or she can negotiate a plea bargain. A plea bargain is also essential if the police evidence is weak. A plea bargain may come in handy when there are many cases in the system or mitigating factors. A plea bargain is allowed by the court for you to plead guilty to lesser charges. Once the court accepts your plea, it then dismisses severe forgery charges so that you serve a lesser charge.
Police Coerced you
At times, the police may arrest and coerce you to confess to the crime of forgery. If the prosecutor charges you with forgery and you are sure the police force you to admit, you can challenge your charges using this fact. Under California law, it is unlawful for the police to apply extreme or overbearing measures against a forgery suspect for him or her to admit the offense. If your attorney can provide sufficient evidence that the police coerced you to accept, the court may exempt the confession from the police from the evidence against you. You may also be acquitted of your charges if it is apparent that you admitted to an offense you did not commit.
You can’t face forgery charges in California, or the court could dismiss your charges if the prosecutor does not provide sufficient evidence against you. Sometimes, people who suffer forgery incidences give up on the prosecution, and they drop the charges because of slow investigation. However, even if the victim drops a forgery case against you, it does not mean you can’t face the prosecution. The prosecutor could order the victim to appear in court, and if he or she fails to yield to the order, he or she could face an arrest.
When the victim of forgery drops the charges, it also means there’s insufficient prove against you. Your attorney could, therefore, challenge the prosecutor’s evidence as inadequate. The court could reduce or dismiss the charges against you if the prosecutor does not provide convincing proof.
You Had No Intention to Defraud
Unless you intended to defraud another person, you can’t face the forgery charges under PC 470. Forgery definition under this statute covers a wide range of conduct, but the intention to defraud is an essential element of a forgery offense. This intent requirement protects people who accidentally defraud others. To face the charges under this statute, you don’t have to succeed in your forgery attempt. What matters is if you intended to deprive someone else of a legal right, property, or money, and to accomplish your intent, you engaged in some conduct. You may argue that the alleged forgery was a mere joke or prank, and the intention was not to defraud him or her but to make fun.
You had Permission
In some circumstances, making some changes to a document like a check is not considered forgery in California. If you had the consent to sign someone’s name or make alterations on the check from the person who has the authority to grant permission, then you are not guilty of forgery. You may not face the charges if you provide sufficient evidence that you had permission to alter or sign the check.
Statute of Limitation for Forgery in California
The period outlined in the statute of limitations usually commences when the crime was committed for most crimes. For a forgery crime, the statute of limitations depends on whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. However, most fraud crimes have a statute of limitations of four years.
The forgery crime statute of limitations starts from the time of completion of the crime or the time of discovering the crime. The law of limitations could be considered to pause or toll if you are out of California for three years. The statute of limitations could also pause if you have an active case waiting for similar conduct. If a claim of attorney privilege holds up the evidence received through investigations, the statute of limitations could also pause.
There are several offenses associated with forgery in California. These are:
Selling or making counterfeit goods PC 350
Check fraud PC 476
Credit card fraud PC 484
Selling or Making Counterfeit Goods PC 350
The California PC 350 makes it an offense for any person to possess, sell, or manufacture for sale any counterfeit goods. Selling or manufacturing counterfeit goods crime resembles a forgery crime in California, although it is charged as theft. The California PC 350 charges individuals who intend to sell or sell knock-off branded goods. The charges under this statute depend on the value and the number of the counterfeit goods involved.
Under this statute, you may face misdemeanor charges if the following are true:
The counterfeit goods were valued at $ 950
The charges involved less than one thousand counterfeit goods.
If the court convicts you of a misdemeanor crime, you could face the following penalties:
A fine of up to $ 200,000 for a business entity and $ 10,000 for individuals
Sentence of one year in a county jail
Summary misdemeanor probation
This crime could be a wobbler according to PC 350 if the counterfeit goods total to 1000 or its value is more than $ 950. You could therefore face a felony or a misdemeanor charge upon the prosecutor’s discretion. If the court convicts you of a felony, you could face the following penalties:
A fine of up to $ 1,000,000 for a business entity and $ 500,000 for individuals
Sentence of 16 months, two, or three years in a county jail
Formal felony probation
The court could also order an asset forfeiture of all goods that bear the counterfeit marks if the court convicts you under PC 350. The court may order a forfeiture of any vehicle used to transport the goods, machines that assemble, and materials used to manufacture the goods could be ordered.
You could face severe penalties if the court convicts you of selling or manufacturing counterfeit goods more than once. It’s a wobbler crime if the court convicts you twice of this offense, even if the counterfeit goods are less than 1000, and their value is $ 950 or less. If this is the case, you could face the following penalties:
A fine of $ 400,000 for the business entity and $ 100,000 for individuals
Sentence of 16 months, two, or three years in a county jail or
Formal felony probation
If you sell or manufacture counterfeit goods and they cause significant bodily injury or death of another person who used them, then you could face more severe penalties. You could face a felony charge that amounts to a jail term of two, three, or four years maximum.
PC 476 Check Fraud
The California PC 476 defines check fraud as an act of writing, passing a fake, or making a check. If the prosecutor accuses you of check fraud, he or she must prove that:
You intended to defraud when you performed the act
You were aware that the check was altered or false
You possessed, used, attempted to pass, or made a false check to pay property or money
If the prosecutor charges you with possession of a false check, he or she must prove that:
You intended to use or pass the check as genuine
You possessed a fake check
It’s a wobbler crime in California for any person to carry out check fraud. The court could therefore convict you for a felony or a misdemeanor. You may face a felony charge depending on your criminal history and the circumstances of the case.
If the court convicts you of a misdemeanor, you could face a fine of $ 1000 maximum or a sentence of up to one year in county jail. If the court convicts you of a felony, you could face a fine of $ 10,000 maximum or a sentence of up to three years in county jail.
Check fraud could also affect your gun rights negatively in California. If the court convicts you of a felony, you could be prohibited from possessing or acquiring a gun. Check fraud charges may also have negative immigration results. Depending on the circumstances of your case, a conviction for a check fraud could lead to severe immigration consequences. If you are a U.S non-citizen, you may be marked inadmissible or deported.
However, even if the court convicts you of this offense, you can receive an expungement on the following conditions:
If you complete your jail term
If you complete your probation
Upon the judge’s discretion, you may still receive an expungement even if you violate a probation term. An expungement releases the victim from harsh penalties and disabilities of the charges.
Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
In California, the penalties for a forgery crime is severe. If you are facing forgery charges, you require a knowledgeable and competent criminal defense attorney to walk with you. The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm has many years of experience, and can create the best defense for forgery charges based on the details of your case. Contact us at 310-935-1675 and speak to one of our attorneys today.