Posted on February 8, 2016

California “Forgery” Laws – Penal Code 470 PC

In California, forgery is charged under penal code 470 pc[1] making it unlawful for someone to sign the name of another person, or fictitious person, without their consent while harboring the intent to defraud. This conduct is usually called “forgery by false signature.”

It is not uncommon for someone to also be charged with burglary, grand theft, petty theft, or check fraud in addition to forgery by false signature. Commonly charged with either checks or credit card authorizations, forgery by false signature applies to various instruments, including:

  • Stocks
  • Bonds
  • Certificates
  • Annuities
  • Contracts

Elements the Prosecutor Must Prove

According to CALCRIM 1900, the prosecutor must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt for you to be convicted of PC 470:

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

Someone intends to defraud if he or she intends to deceive another person either to cause a loss of money, goods, services, or causes damages. The law also extends persons as the government, corporations, or political bodies.

Legal Defenses to Forgery by False Signature – PC 470

  • Consent: The person you signed for gave you permission to sign on their behalf. To help support this defense, it is encouraged that you obtain cellular phone data – e.g., call records, text activity, in addition to e-mail correspondence proving the other individual consented to sign on their behalf.
  • Intent: Since forgery contains a defraud requirement, the prosecutor must prove you harbored the specific intent to defraud another. Accordingly, if you signed on accident or signed your real name, then you harbored bad intent.
  • Constitutional Violation: The police may have illegally obtained evidence against you – e.g., conducted an illegal search and/or seizure of your property, and/or obtained your incriminating admissions in violation of your Miranda rights.

California Forgery Punishment

Forgery is ordinarily a misdemeanor unless the amount obtain exceeds $950. If the amount exceeds $950, then the crime becomes a wobbler allowing the prosecutor to charge you with either a felony or misdemeanor.

A misdemeanor forgery violation is punishable in the county jail for up to one (1) year. A felony carries a sentencing range of 16 months, 2, or 3 years in the county jail.

Other consequences include court fines and payment of restitution to the purported victim. Additionally, since forgery is a crime involving moral turpitude, you could face adverse consequences by a licensing bureau if you hold a professional license.

Fortunately, those who have been convicted of a felony, may be able to reduce their felony conviction to a misdemeanor after successful completion of probation and/or seek an expungement of the conviction.

Examples of Forgery by False Signature

  • You used someone else’s credit card and sign on their behalf without their knowledge.
  • Signing your partners name on a business or real estate contract without their consent.
  • Endorsing a bank check made to your roommate and attempting to cash it without your room knowing.

Contact Us to Schedule a Free Consultation

If you have been charged or are under investigation for forgery under penal code 470 pc, then contact the Law Offices of John D. Rogers. Speak with an experienced Orange County criminal defense attorney. We provide free confidential case evaluations with no obligation to retain our office. Give us a call to schedule a consultation today.

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[1] Penal Code 470(a) defined: “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 to any of the items listed in subdivision (d) is guilty of forgery.”


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