FORGERY LAWS IN CALIFORNIA

California Forgery Laws

Nowadays, historical papers, art objects, even identification cards, university diplomas, driver’s licenses and certificates can be forged. Any person can commit forgery by composing a new document or passing it from another’s name. It is crucial that the defendant acts with the intent to deceive or defraud the victim in order to achieve personal or financial gain. Under California Penal Code numerous activities relate to the Forgery Laws, such as signing, altering, making, or using of a written instrument. Under the term “written”, California Laws include any handwritten, printed, typed, or otherwise recorded documents. For example, the offender can try to commit the crime by signing another’s name in a contract or a check which have legal effects. It should be mentioned that there is a special type of forgery which is called counterfeiting which deals with currency and consumer goods counterfeiting.

The prosecution must establish three elements of the crime: identify a written document, show that the defendant’s act in preparation the written document, materially altered an existing written document, or falsely signed a written document and prove that the defendant acted with the specific intent to defraud.

In practice, the forgery is not charged unless it is committed with intent to defraud or the act attempts to commit fraud or larceny. For example, any copied work of art can be hanged in the home unless the person tries to sell it or represent as an original, it becomes the crime of forgery.

Below, we will introduce you the definition and main types of the crime of forgery in California. Additionally, in the resources of our site you can find detailed information about different kind of financial crimes and fraud in California.

1. Definition of Forgery under Penal Code 470 PC
2. Elements of the Forgery Crime in California
3. Types of Forgery in California
a) Forgery by signing someone else’s name
b) Forgery by counterfeiting or forging someone else’s handwriting or seal
c) Forgery by Altering or Falsifying Will or Other Legal Document
d) Forgery by Passing or Attempting to Use Forged Document
e) Possession of Forged Document
4. Forgery Penalties
a) Additional Penalties
5. Which Legal Defenses Can Be Used Against Forgery Charges?

In the resources of our site you can find detailed information about different kind of financial crimes and fraud in California.

1. Definition of Forgery in California
According to California Penal Code 470 PC, the crime of forgery takes place, if a person:
– Signs a document someone else’s name without authorization or of a fictitious person;
– Fakes or copies a seal or someone else’s handwriting;
– Changes any legal document;
– Falsifies any legal document;
– with the intent to defraud, falsely makes, alters, forges, or counterfeits, utters, publishes, passes or attempts or offers to pass, as true and genuine, any item, knowing the same to be false, altered, forged, or counterfeited.

Example: Daniel recreated Jenny’s signature and falsified notarized documents in order to obtain the right to sell the picture picked on the wall at her house. Jenny was out of city and she did not know that Daniel could use the right to enter her home when she was absent with the intent to commit the crime of forgery. When Daniel was selling the picture, it was discovered that the documents were false. Thus, Daniel had committed forgery.

2. Elements of the Crime of Forgery in California
To prove that the defendant is guilty of forgery crime in California, the prosecutor must prove that:
1. The defendant signed someone else’s name or a false name to a document from California Penal Code Section 470(d);
2. The defendant did not have authority to sign that name;
3. The defendant knew that he or she did not have that authority;
4. When the defendant signed the document, he or she intended to defraud.

A person has the intent to defraud if he or she intends to deceive another person either to cause a loss of money, goods, services, or something else of value, or to cause damage to, a legal, financial, or property right.
In the frames of the forgery crime, it is not necessary that the victim actually be defrauded or actually suffered a financial, legal, or property loss as a result of the defendant’s acts.
Example: Lindsey forgot her wallet in James’ house. James found a credit card in the wallet and tried to pay for purchases in a shop by this card and signed the sales slip. But the shop security calls police because James conduct seemed strange. In fact, James did not take the goods from the shop but he had intended to defraud by signing someone else’s name a document, meanwhile he did not have authority to sign it and he knew it.

3. Schemes of Forgery

a) Forgery by signing someone else’s name
In order to commit forgery by signature, a person must:
1. sign a legal or financial document a name that is not his or her own;
2. sign the document without authority to do so;
3. he or she that knew that there is no authority to sign that name.

b) Forgery by counterfeiting or forging someone else’s handwriting or seal
The defendant can be charged with forging the handwriting or seal of another person.
To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the prosecution must prove that:
1. The defendant forged the handwriting or seal of another person on written document that could defraud;
2. When the defendant did that act, he or she intended to defraud.

c) Forgery by Altering or Falsifying Will or Other Legal Document
The defendant can be charged with forgery committed by altering, corrupting, or falsifying a legal document.
To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the prosecutor must prove the following facts:
1. The defendant altered, corrupted, or falsified a document;
2. That document was a record of a will, codicil, conveyance, court judgment, or other legal writing that the law accepts as evidence;
3. When the defendant altered, corrupted, or falsified the document, he or she intended to defraud.
A person alters a document if he or she adds to, erases, or changes a part of the document that affects a legal, financial, or property right.

d) Forgery by Passing or Attempting to Use Forged Document
The defendant can be charged with forgery committed by passing, using, attempting or offering to use a forged document.
In order to prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the following facts must be established:
1. The defendant passed, used, attempted to offer or offered to use a false altered, forged, or counterfeited a type of document mentioned in California Penal Code Section 470(d);
2. The defendant knew that the document was false, altered, forged or counterfeited;
3. When the defendant passed, used, attempted or offered to use the false document, he or she intended that it can be accepted as genuine and he or she intended to defraud.
A person passes, uses, attempt or offers to use a document if he or she represents to someone that the document is genuine. The representation may be made by words or conduct and may be either direct or indirect.

e) Possession of Forged Document
The defendant can be charged with possessing or receiving a forged, altered, or counterfeit document.
To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the prosecution must prove the following:
1. The defendant possessed or received a forged, altered, or counterfeit a document stated in California Penal Code Section 470(d);
2. The defendant knew that the document was forged, altered, or counterfeit;
3. The defendant intended to pass, use, or aid the passage or use of the document as genuine;
4. When the defendant possessed or received the document, he or she intended to defraud.

4. Penalties I Can Face for Committing Forgery in California
In California, the crime of forgery is a “wobbler”. It means that it can be charged whether as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on:
1. Specific circumstances of the crime;
2. Criminal history of the defendant.

More specifically, forgery is charged as misdemeanor if the amount of the total financial loss incurred by the victim is below $950.
Felony forgery occurs when if the amount of the total financial loss incurred by the victim is more than $950. In addition, an offender can be charged with felony forgery if he or she has prior convictions in the criminal history. It should be taken into consideration that forger felony subjects the convicted to California’s Three Strike Law, if there is prior felony conviction(s).
In the below table you can find the list of penalties for the breaking California Forgery Laws depending on whether the crime is charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.

Misdemeanor Felony
imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one yearorby a fine of not less than one thousand dollars ($1,000)or

by both that fine and imprisonment

Informal probation up to three (3) years

Payment of restitution to any victim

imprisonment up to three (3) years in prison

or

by a fine of not less than one thousand dollars ($10,000)

or

by both that fine and imprisonment

Informal probation

Payment of restitution to any victim

a) Additional penalties

While forging or falsifying California vehicle registration, a person may face possible sanctions by the side of the DMV. The DMV may:
– Refuse to renew or issue a driver’s license to the person convicted of forging a vehicle registration;
– Revoke driver’s license.

5. Which Legal Defenses Can Be Used Against White-Collar Crimes Charges?

Your defense attorney can use one of the following defenses in order to dismiss or reduce the charge:
Lack of knowledge
– There was no intent to deceive or defraud anyone
Plea bargain
False accusations
– The forged document could not make someone lose any legal right
– Etc.

The Margarian Law Firm aggressively protects the rights of criminal defendants in California. There are always defenses that can help you avoid penalties. Moreover, sometimes a person can be innocent and, notwithstanding all circumstances, be accused of committing a crime by mistake. We will evaluate your case and engage as fast as possible in your defense for trial. Do not hesitate to contact us. We will do our best to get the best possible outcome for You!

You may file your request online, by telephone or by mail. 818-553-1000

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