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Forgery is a crime under California law outlined under PC 470. You can commit this crime if you alter certain documents fraudulently or if you falsify a signature. The crime of forgery in California pertains to a wide range of offenses. California PC 470 forgery is assigning the name/title of another individual or a fictitious individual. Counterfeiting or forging the handwriting or seal of another person is a forgery. Forgery also entails altering, corrupting, or falsifying a judgment, will, or codicil. Falsifying or altering specific documents like bonds, money orders, and bonds is also a form of forgery. Forgery is a serious offense with severe consequences. We at Leah Legal can help you come up with a proper defense if you are facing forgery charges in Van Nuys.

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Elements of the Crime

Sometimes, a simple action may qualify as a forgery. For instance, you can commit forgery if you sign the name of a doctor on a fraudulent prescription. If you add a page to a person's will to raise your chances of getting more money, you would also be guilty of forgery. You may as well commit the crime if you endorse a check issued to another person without the person's consent. 

Altering certain documents could lead to forgery charges. The materials include bonds, checks, money orders, contracts, traveler's checks, property deeds, stock certificates, and contracts.

A wide range of activities involving altering, signing, or using a written instrument may qualify as a forgery. The instrument in question could be printed, handwritten, recorded, or typed. You may commit forgery if you write a new will, and you present it as the valid will of another individual.

It must be apparent that you committed an activity that qualifies as a forgery, as outlined above. For instance, the prosecutor may identify a written instrument and show that you made the written instrument. The prosecutor could also prove that you made a material alteration on an existing written instrument. The prosecutor must also confirm that you falsely signed a written instrument.

The prosecutor has to prove that you had the intent to defraud another individual while committing the crime. You could portray an intention to defraud if you lie or deceive another person. It should be apparent that you deceived the victim with intent to deprive him/her money, legal right, or property.

You could get charges for acting with the intention to defraud even if you did not succeed in defrauding the victim. Even if the victim did not incur a legal, property, or financial loss, you could still get forgery charges.

Consequences of Forgery in California

Violating the California PC 470 is a wobbler offense. This means that the crime is a felony or a misdemeanor, and the prosecutor has the discretion to assign the appropriate charges. If forgery is a misdemeanor, the consequences are misdemeanor or summary probation. The court might also impose jail time not exceeding one year in a county jail in California. You might also have to pay a fine that does not exceed $1,000.

If the offense of forgery is a felony, the penalties include serving formal probation. While on probation, you have to comply with the requirements of probation. One condition of formal probation is meeting with the probation officer from time to time. Visiting the probation office is also a condition of formal probation. If you violate the probation conditions, the court might decide to revoke the probation and recommend jail time. 

A felony conviction is also punishable by a county jail sentence for up to three years. The court could impose a high fine, not exceeding $10,000.

It is imperative to note that misdemeanor charges will only apply if the forged document like a check or money order is worth $950 or less. If you forge a document worth more than $950, the crime is an automatic felony.

In charging the crime of fraud as a misdemeanor or felony, the state may consider your criminal record. The state could also consider the presence of aggravating or mitigating factors in the case. Aggravating factors are facts that could lead to enhanced charges, including being a repeat offender.

Forging a document of high value is also an aggravating factor in forgery cases. On the other hand, mitigating factors could make the prosecutor assign lesser or misdemeanor charges instead of felony charges. If you forge a document with a minimal value, it may serve as a mitigating factor that would save you from getting felony charges. 

Immigration Consequences of Forgery

A conviction of forgery could have negative immigration consequences. A court in California ruled that forgery is a serious offense, which involves moral turpitude. Therefore, if you are a non-citizen in the U.S and you commit the crime of forgery, you will face the risk of deportation. Deportation is the forceful removal from the United States. The crime could also render you inadmissible into the United States. The state of being inadmissible means that you might not be able to become a U.S citizen through naturalization. Therefore, if you commit forgery and you are a non-citizen, you should seek immediate legal representation to help you fight forgery charges. 

Forgery Conviction and Gun Rights

A forgery conviction in California could affect your gun rights.  You may not be able to retain your gun rights in California after a felony conviction of forgery. It is unlawful for convicted felons in California to possess or own a gun. The prosecutor could charge the offense of forgery as a misdemeanor or a felony. You will only lose your gun rights if the crime is a felony. If the crime is a misdemeanor, it will not have any effects on your gun rights. 

Expungement of the Conviction

Just like other convictions in California, with the help of an attorney, you may apply for an expungement of your felony conviction. After an expungement, you will no longer face the hardships associated with the conviction. You could apply for an expungement after you complete probation successfully, and you abide by the terms of probation. You could also apply for expungement after completing jail time successfully and abiding with the applicable terms. If you have competent legal representation, you can negotiate for an expungement of the conviction even if you did not comply with all the terms of probation. 

Possible Legal Defenses to Forgery Charges 

You can challenge a charge under PC 470 by adopting certain legal defenses. You will need an attorney who can help you develop a convincing defense that will persuade the judge to dismiss or reduce your forgery charges. Here are some of the common legal defenses for forgery charges.

Lack of Intention to Defraud

An essential element of a forgery crime is the intention to defraud. You can only face forgery charges if you intended to deceive or lie to the victim to help you obtain property, legal rights, or money from the victim. You will only be guilty of forgery if you had the intention to defraud. You can point out that you did not intend to take the victim's money or property. For instance, the forgery was a prank or a joke, and the intention was to make fun of the victim and not to defraud the victim. 

False Accusations

You could fight forgery charges successfully if it is apparent that you are a victim of false accusations. The majority of forgery cases take place in intricate legal and business dealings. Most forgery crimes take place in offices and workplace settings. It is common for perpetrators of forgery to accuse other people of the crime to help conceal their own mistakes and guilt. If you did not commit the crime of forgery, you could point out that you are a victim of false accusations. Your attorney can help to uncover hidden evidence, which would probably point to the real perpetrator of the crime. 

The Police Coerced you to Confess

If the prosecutor charged you with forgery after confession and you feel that the Police coerced you to confess to the crime, you can point out this fact in court. It is illegal under California laws for the Police to use overbearing or extreme measures to make a victim confess to a crime. If you can prove that the Police coerced you and forced you to admit, the judge may exclude the confession from the evidence against you. The judge might also drop your case if it is apparent that you confessed to a crime you did not commit. 

The Role of a Criminal Attorney

Because the crime of forgery is a wobbler, the sentencing range for the crime is broad. A competent criminal defense attorney could make a significant difference. If you work with a well-trained attorney, he/she can attempt to reduce your felony offense to a misdemeanor. An attorney will strive to have your sentence and fines reduced or to have the case dismissed altogether.

If your forgery case proceeds to trial, your attorney will use every strategy available to the task and make the prosecutor prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty. The prosecutor has a burden of proof to show that you intended to defraud another person. It is hard to prove intent, especially when the prosecutor is facing a skilled criminal defense attorney.

Your attorney could have defended many individuals facing forgery charges before. Therefore, the attorney understands the right steps that he/she should take to defend your case. You should not wait long before contacting an attorney. You should get in touch with an attorney immediately after your arrest. Timely involvement of an attorney gives him/her ample time to investigate your case and come up with the best defense strategy.

Related Offenses

Under California law, certain crimes are closely related to the crime of forgery. The related crimes include:

Forging Credit Card Information

California statute PC 484f outlines the crime of forging credit card information. You may violate this law if you alter a credit or debit card. You may also violate this statute if you create or counterfeit a debit card or credit card. If you sign another person’s name in a transaction, which involves a credit or debit card without the person’s permission, you may violate PC 484f.  While carrying out the mentioned activities, you must act with the intention to defraud. Defrauding or acting in a fraudulent manner means trying to trick a person through dishonest means.

An offense under PC 484f is punishable under the California forgery law outlined under PC 470. Therefore, a violation under PC 484f is a wobbler offense punishable as either a felony or a misdemeanor. The punishment for misdemeanor offense includes serving jail time in county jail. For a felony violation, the penalties include imprisonment in a state prison in California. 

You can challenge an accusation under PC 484f by coming up with a valid legal defense. A good defense could make the court reduce or even dismiss your charges. You are only guilty of forgery under PC484f if you acted knowingly while altering or using a credit card to your benefit. If you did not act with this type of knowledge while committing the offense, you could fight the charges in court. For instance, you could have signed your name in another person's credit card information by mistake. In this case, you would not be guilty of having any knowledge of carrying out the crime. 

You can also state that you had no intention to defraud the victim. This defense is also applicable while fighting forgery cases in California. You are only guilty of forging credit card information if you intended to defraud the victim. If you did not have this requisite defense while performing the crime, you might not face charges. For instance, you could have made a counterfeit credit card as a practical joke with no fraudulent intent. 

According to the Fourth Amendment to the United States constitution, the Police can only arrest you for a crime if they have probable cause. Therefore, if the Police had no probable cause to conduct the arrest, you can use that fact as the basis of your defense.

Check Fraud 

Check fraud, which is an offense outlined under California PC 476, is almost similar to the crime of forgery. The prosecutor has to prove certain elements to convict you of check fraud. The prosecutor should show that you made, possessed, used, passed, or attempted to use or pass an altered, false, or fictitious check for payment of property or money. At the time of carrying out the activities mentioned above, you should have known that the check was altered or false. At the time of committing the said actions, you should have had the intention to defraud the victim.

If the prosecutor charges you with possession of a false or fraudulent check, the prosecutor has to prove some aspects of the crime. The prosecutor has to show that you possessed the document. It should also be evident that you intended to pass or use the document as genuine despite knowing that the document is false. What is a fake or fictitious check? It is a check, which is not legal or real. For instance, a check is fictitious if it is drawn from a bank that does not exist. A check could also be fictitious if the person who has endorsed the check does not exist. 

A person who commits a check fraud is guilty of forgery under California law. The prosecutor may charge the offense as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on your criminal history and the facts of your case. Just like the crime of forgery, check fraud could have negative immigration consequences. The crime, if charged as a felony, could also affect your gun rights in California.

Making or Selling Counterfeit Goods 

The California PC 350 outlines the crime of selling or making counterfeit goods. Under this statute, selling, possessing for sale, or counterfeiting trademarks is an offense. You may face prosecution under this statute if you sell or intend to sell counterfeit versions of original branded products. 

The crime of making or selling counterfeit products is almost similar to the crime of forgery.  However, the punishment for the crime of counterfeiting is more like punishment for California theft crimes.

The punishment for the crime of counterfeiting depends on the number and the value of the goods involved. If the counterfeit items are less than 1,000, the crime is a misdemeanor. A violation under PC 350 is also a misdemeanor if the counterfeit goods have a value of less than $950.

The crime is a wobbler if the counterfeit items exceed 1,000, and if the value of the goods exceeds $950. If convicted as a felony, the penalties for the crime will include felony probation. Other potential penalties include 16 months, two years, or three years in a county jail in California. The court could also impose a high fine, not exceeding $500,000 for individual offenders and one million dollars for companies or entities. The court could also order forfeiture for all counterfeit marks and the goods bearing the marks. 

Find a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

If you are facing an accusation of forgery in Van Nuys, you can reach out to Leah Legal at 818-484-1100. Our attorneys are well versed in California criminal law and are ready to help you build a strong defense strategy for your charges.