Posted on February 8, 2016

“Forgery” Defenses & Punishment │ California Penal Code 470 PC

In California, “Forgery” also known as forgery by false signature is charged under Penal Code 470. If the crime is completed, or an attempt was made thereof, you can expect to face additional charges such as burglary, check fraud, grand theft or petty theft. Although commonly charged via checks or credit card authorization, forgery by false signature is applied to contracts, bonds, certificates, annuities, and corporate stock. It’s categorized as a fraud crime because the charge involves the element of “intent to defraud.” This article will address 8 important things you should know about California forgery by false signature.

1. What is the Legal Definition of Forgery?

PC 470 provides “Every person who, with the intent to defraud, knowing that he or she has no authority to do so, signs the name of another person or of a fictitious person..”

2. What Must the Prosecutor Prove for Forgery?

According to CALCRIM 1900, in order for you to be found guilty of forgery under PC 470, the prosecutor holds the burden of proving each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

1. You signed another’s name or signed with a fake name;
2. You did not have the authority to sign a fake name or another’s name;
3. You knew you did not have the authority;
4. You harbored the intent to defraud by the signing.

3. What are the Legal Defenses to Forgery?

• You were given consent by the other person to sign on their behalf on the document.

• You lacked the requisite “specific intent” to defraud when you signed.

• Your accuser is falsely accusing you of this crime for a known or unknown reason.

• You signed with your name instead of another or a fake name.

• The police illegally obtained the physical evidence against you in violation of your search & seizure rights under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

4. What is the Punishment for Forgery?

The punishment for forgery will depend on whether you were convicted of a felony or misdemeanor. If the value of the item(s) or money is $950 or less, then you would be charged with a misdemeanor. If the amount exceeds $950, it then becomes a wobbler offense.

If you’re convicted of a misdemeanor, you face up to 1 year in the county jail. If you’re convicted of a felony, you face a sentencing range of 16, 2, or 3 years in the county jail. In addition, the court will also impose restitution to be paid to your accuser in the event he or she lost money or suffered property damage(s).

Because forgery is categorized as a “fraud” crime, you may face adverse consequences with your immigration status in this country, or your ability to maintain or gain state licensing.

5. What are Examples of Forgery?

• You used someone’s credit card and signed on their behalf without their consent.

• Signing your partners name on a business or real estate contract without their knowledge.

• Endorsing a bank check made to your roommate and attempting to cash it without your roommate knowing or consenting.

6. Reducing your Felony to a Misdemeanor

Forgery by false signature is a “wobbler offense” which means the prosecutor holds discretion when electing to charge you with a felony or misdemeanor. If you suffer from a felony forgery conviction, you may be eligible to reduce your felony to a misdemeanor under Proposition 47 or under California PC 17(b). Reducing your conviction under PC 17(b) carries far greater benefits and it’s strongly encouraged.

To reduce your conviction under Proposition 47, the amount you gained via forgery cannot have exceeded $950, you cannot be a 290 registrant, and you cannot have any prior “super-strike” convictions. Proposition 47 will not however, restore your right to own a firearm.

Under PC 17(b), after completing your probation period, a specific petition must be filed with the court outlining the reason(s) you’re seeking reduction. If granted, the court will reduce your felony to a misdemeanor “for all purposes” relieving you from ever having to disclose you’ve been convicted of a felony. PC 17(b) reduction carries a full restoration of your rights, including your right to own a firearm. It is a highly discretionary motion and the factors the judge will consider are:

• The severity of the circumstances of your case as well as its planning and sophistication;

• Your prior criminal history;

• The amount you gained resulting from the forgery (if applicable);

• Whether you suffered any probation violations;

• The reason(s) you’re seeking reduction – e.g., military, employment, etc.

7. Can I Expunge my Forgery Conviction?

Whether you suffer from a felony or misdemeanor conviction for forgery by false signature under PC 470, you may be eligible to expunge your conviction under California PC 1203.4. If the court grants you petition for expungement, the court will withdraw its finding of guilt, enter a not guilty plea, and dismiss the case. From that point forward, you will be “released from all penalties and disabilities” resulting from your conviction. This remedy carries considerable employment benefits in the private sector. For more information about forgery expungement, contact the Law Offices of John D. Rogers.

8. Free Forgery Lawyer Consultation

Contact a Forgery Defense Lawyer if you’ve been arrested, charged, or are under investigation for forgery by false signature under PC 470. The Law Offices of John D. Rogers offers free confidential consultations with no obligation.

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