California “Forgery” Laws – Penal Code 470 PC

In California, forgery is charged under penal code 470 pc.[1] Moreover, it is a crime that involves signing the name of another, without their consent, with the intent to defraud. Forgery can be linked to real estate transactions, disbursement of assets, checks, etc.

If any loss amount exceeds $950, then the charge becomes a wobbler. In other words, the crime is punishable as a felony or misdemeanor. However, if a loss amount is under $950, then forgery is punishable as a misdemeanor only.

Common types of forgery items include:

  • Checks
  • Bonds
  • Bank Bills
  • Cashier’s Checks
  • Contracts
  • Certificates
  • Annuities

In addition to forgery, it is not uncommon for the prosecutor to also charge a defendant with:

It is also a forgery crime to forge or falsify the following types of documents or records: (1) driver’s license or identification cards;[2] (2) entries in records or returns;[3] (3) medical records;[4] (4) public and corporate seals;[5] and (5) telephone and telegraph messages.[6]

What is the Prosecutor Required to Prove for PC 470?

To prove someone is guilty of PC 470, the prosecutor must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. Defendant signed with another person’s name or fake name;
  2. Defendant knew they did not have the authority to do so;
  3. Defendant did not have the authority to sign a fake name or another person’s name;
  4. Defendant intended to defraud by signing.[7]

What is the Punishment for California Forgery?

A felony conviction for penal code 470 carries a sentencing triad of 16 months, 2, or 3 years in the county jail. A misdemeanor conviction carries up to 1 year in the county jail. Some other conviction consequences may include:

  • Payment of restitution for any economic losses
  • Adverse immigration consequences for non-U.S. citizens
  • Denial of an occupational or professional license
  • A felony conviction carries a lifetime prohibition from owning or possessing a firearm

A felony forgery conviction may be eligible to be reduced to a misdemeanor after successfully completing probation.

What are the Legal Defenses to PC 470?

Forgery requires someone to act with the specific purpose of defrauding another. Accordingly, by signing on accident or perhaps you signed your real name, then you did not fall within the statute’s definition of fraud. Additionally, you may have been granted consent to sign on behalf of another. Furthermore, you could have signed for someone else under duress. Lastly, you may have a constitutional challenge if law enforcement committed a search, seizure, or Miranda rights violation.

What are Examples of Forgery?

  • Using someone else’s credit card and signing their name without their knowledge.
  • Signing your partner’s name on a business or real estate contract without their consent.
  • Endorsing a bank check made out to your roommate and attempting to cash it without your roommate 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 our office today. Early intervention by an experienced Orange County criminal defense attorney can mean the difference between serving time in jail or having your case rejected entirely. Contact the Law Offices of John D. Rogers today to schedule a risk-free consultation about your rights and defenses.

Attorney John D. Rogers is a board-certified criminal law specialist. This is a prestigious distinction that less than 2% of California criminal defense lawyers have achieved. He has unmatched success in defending his clients in all types of theft crimes, especially when his clients are faced with a “must-win” dilemma. He focuses his representation to dismiss charges or obtain an acquittal at trial.

Legal References:

[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.”)

[2] See Penal Code 470a (criminalizing falsification), and Penal Code 470b (criminalizing display).

[3] Penal Code 471. This section makes it a crime to forge an entry in “any book of records,” including both public records and the records of private business. People v. Dunbar (2012) 209 Cal.App.4th 114.

[4] See Penal Code 471.5.

[5] See Penal Code 472.

[6] See Penal Code 474.

[7] See CALCRIM No. 1900.

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