Forgery, a serious offense under California Penal Code 470 PC, involves the fraudulent signing of names, including those of fictitious entities, on various financial instruments. The criminal act aims to deceive and defraud, leading to significant legal repercussions for those found guilty.
Facing forgery charges in Long Beach demands the expertise of a skilled criminal attorney who understands the California justice system. At Long Beach Criminal Attorney, our seasoned attorneys boast extensive experience in handling forgery cases, ensuring comprehensive defense strategies tailored to your specific legal needs.
Do not navigate the complex forgery charges alone. Secure our guidance and advocacy for a positive outcome today.
The Legal Definition Of Forgery In California
Forgery, as defined by California Penal Code 470 PC, encompasses a range of actions that can lead to criminal liability. These actions include:
- Signing someone else's name without their consent. This is a deceptive act, aiming to misrepresent the true identity of the signatory.
- Counterfeiting or forging seals or handwriting of another person. It entails creating false representations with the intent to deceive.
- Altering or falsifying legal documents such as wills or court records.
- Falsification, alteration, or forgery of specific documents, including checks, bonds, money orders, traveler's checks, contracts, lottery tickets, stock certificates, and property deeds.
What the Prosecution Must Prove
The prosecution must establish several elements beyond a reasonable doubt to secure a conviction for forgery in a California court. These include:
Act of Falsification
The act of falsification is a critical element that the prosecution must establish in a court of law. This element involves various deceptive actions you could perform, including the creation, alteration, or use of false documents.
One aspect of the act of falsification involves the creation of entirely fabricated documents that appear genuine but contain false information or signatures. For example, forging a signature on a legal contract or creating a counterfeit check with the intent to deceive constitutes the creation of false documents.
Another form of falsification is the alteration of pre-existing documents. This can involve changing critical information, such as modifying the terms of a contract or tampering with financial records to misrepresent transactions. Even minor alterations aimed at deceiving individuals or entities can fall under the umbrella of the act of falsification.
Additionally, using falsified documents with the intent to deceive or defraud is an integral part of the act of falsification. This can include presenting forged identification, submitting fraudulent financial records, or using counterfeit certificates for personal gain. The deliberate use of falsified documents to mislead others constitutes falsification.
Intent To Defraud
Intent to defraud means deceiving another person or lying to them with the purpose of depriving them of money, property, or some legal right. So, you can be deemed to have this intent even if no one is actually defrauded or suffers financial, legal, or property loss as a result of the fraudulent act.
For example, if your client writes you a check for $20.00 for a service and you alter the check to $200.00 with the aim of deceiving the payee and the bank, you are acting with an intent to defraud. The attempt to deceive is what matters, even if the fraudulent check is not successfully cashed.
Knowledge of Falsity
Demonstrating knowledge of falsity requires establishing that you were fully aware that the document in your possession was forged, altered, or falsified. This understanding signifies that you comprehended the deceptive nature of the information or signatures presented within the document.
The knowledge of falsity indicates your intent to deceive or defraud others through the use of the forged document. It highlights the conscious decision of the individual to engage in deceptive practices, fully aware of the potential consequences and the wrongful nature of their actions.
The element of knowledge of falsity emphasizes that you intentionally misrepresented the authenticity of the document, whether by creating a false document, altering an existing one, or using a fraudulent instrument for personal gain or to cause harm to others.
Specificity of the Document
The prosecution must precisely identify the type of document that has been falsified, altered, or used fraudulently. This can encompass a range of legal or financial paperwork, including but not limited to checks, contracts, wills, deeds, or any other official documentation. Clear identification is essential for building a robust case against you.
In addition to specifying the document type, the prosecution must highlight the significance of the content within the document. This entails emphasizing the crucial information or signatures that have been forged or altered, showing how the falsification directly impacts the integrity and validity of the document.
Understanding the context in which the document was used is vital for establishing the gravity of the forgery offense. Whether the document was utilized for financial transactions, legal agreements, or other crucial purposes, comprehending its role and significance within the broader context aids in illustrating the detrimental impact of the forgery on the individuals or entities involved.
Supporting the specificity of the document with corroborating evidence and testimony further strengthens the prosecution's case. This can include expert analysis, witness statements, or any other documentation that reaffirms the identity and importance of the specific document within the context of the forgery allegations.
Impact on the Victim or Entity
The prosecution must demonstrate any financial losses incurred by the victim or entity as a direct result of the forged or falsified document. This can include monetary loss, unauthorized transactions, or any other adverse financial consequences arising from your deceptive practices.
Damage to one's reputation within the community or the industry can have far-reaching consequences, affecting future business prospects, professional relationships, and overall credibility. Therefore, highlighting the impact of forgery on the victim's or entity's reputation and credibility is crucial in illustrating the broader implications of the crime.
Emphasizing any legal ramifications of the forgery illustrates the broader legal implications of your actions. This can involve legal disputes, contractual breaches, or any other legal challenges that arise due to the fraudulent nature of the document you present.
The emotional and psychological toll on the victim or affected entity goes beyond the tangible financial or legal consequences. Stress, anxiety, and emotional distress resulting from your deceptive actions can significantly affect the well-being and overall quality of life of the victim or entity.
Common Legal Defenses to Forgery
When facing forgery charges in California, you want to learn the legal defenses available to challenge these accusations. These include:
No Intent To Defraud
As mentioned above, "intent to defraud" refers to the deceptive intention to deceive another person, often involving acts that aim to deprive them of money, property, or a legal right.
You can be considered to have this intent even if no one is actually defrauded or suffers any tangible financial, legal, or property loss as a result of the fraudulent act. For example, your client writes a check for $20.00 to pay for a service, and you alter the check to $200.00 with the intent to deceive the payee and the bank. In this case, you are clearly acting with the intent to defraud. The attempt to deceive is the key element, even if the fraudulent check is not successfully cashed.
If you can establish that your actions lacked any intent to defraud and were, for example, part of a harmless prank or misunderstanding, this defense can be highly relevant.
Forgery cases often emerge in complex business or legal dealings. They are also not uncommon in workplace settings, where confidential financial transactions and document handling occur. Your colleague could falsely accuse you of forgery, potentially diverting attention from their wrongdoing.
The "falsely accused" defense asserts that you have been unjustly blamed for forgery. It implies that the accusations against you are untrue and possibly motivated by other factors, such as covering up the perpetrator’s wrongdoing or diverting attention from internal issues within an organization.
In legal proceedings, confessions often carry significant weight as evidence. However, the law places strict limitations on how confessions can be obtained. California law expressly prohibits the use of overbearing measures or coercion to extract confessions.
The "coerced confession" defense centers on the claim that your confession, if it exists, was obtained through coercion or duress. In other words, law enforcement or other parties may have used undue pressure, threats, or intimidation to compel you to confess to a forgery offense.
If you can demonstrate that your confession was coerced, it can have significant legal implications. There are two potential outcomes:
- The judge may choose to exclude the coerced confession from evidence. This means that the confession cannot be used against you in the legal proceedings.
- In more extreme cases where a confession was a critical piece of evidence, the entire case could be dropped if it can be established that the confession was the result of undue pressure and coercion.
Penalties and Punishment for a PC 470 Conviction
Forgery under Penal Code 470 PC is classified as a "wobbler" offense. So, prosecutors have the discretion to charge forgery as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the specifics of the case.
If a forgery offense is charged as a misdemeanor and results in a conviction, individuals may face the following penalties:
- Misdemeanor or Summary Probation.
- Serving time in county jail for a maximum period of up to one year.
- Fines not exceeding $1,000.
If a forgery offense is charged as a felony and results in a conviction, the penalties become more severe:
- Felony or Formal Probation.
- Serving time in jail for a maximum period of up to three years.
- Fines not exceeding $10,000.
Misdemeanor vs. Felony Charges
A crucial factor that determines whether forgery is charged as a misdemeanor or felony is the value of the forged document. If the document is a check, money order, or a similar financial instrument and is worth $950 or less, the offense is typically charged as a misdemeanor. In cases where the instrument exceeds this value, it may be elevated to a felony charge.
Immigration Consequences Upon a Forgery Conviction
One key factor that determines the immigration consequences of a criminal offense is whether it involves "moral turpitude." Crimes that fall under this category can have detrimental impacts on a non-citizen's immigration status.
A conviction for a crime involving moral turpitude, such as forgery, can result in two significant consequences for non-citizens:
- A non-citizen convicted of forgery may face deportation, which entails being removed from the United States and returning to their home country.
- A forgery conviction can also render a non-citizen inadmissible to the United States. This means they may be denied entry or re-entry into the country, even for purposes such as work, study, or family reunification.
Having Your PC 470 Conviction Expunged
The legal avenue for seeking an expungement of a forgery conviction is found in Penal Code 1203.4 PC. Expunging your conviction allows you to request the expungement of your conviction under certain circumstances.
If you are convicted of forgery in California, there may be an opportunity to seek an expungement of your conviction. To be eligible for expungement, you must meet specific criteria.
If you are sentenced to probation, you must complete your probationary period. This entails fulfilling all the terms and conditions of probation, including meeting court-ordered requirements.
In cases where jail time was part of the sentence, you must successfully serve your jail term. If you are seeking expungement, you must not have committed any new offenses or been convicted of other crimes during your probation or jail term.
Obtaining an expungement of a forgery conviction offers several benefits. An expungement effectively changes the status of the conviction on your criminal record. It is marked as "dismissed" rather than "convicted," which can be advantageous for future employment and other opportunities.
Expungement can also provide relief from some of the collateral consequences of a forgery conviction, such as certain restrictions on employment and professional licenses.
Does Forgery Conviction Impact Your Gun Rights?
Under California law, convicted felons are subject to strict restrictions on firearm ownership and possession. A felony conviction, such as one resulting from forgery charges, can have significant implications for a person's Second Amendment rights.
However, the impact on gun rights may vary depending on whether the forgery conviction is categorized as a misdemeanor or felony.
Individuals with a misdemeanor forgery conviction may not face an automatic prohibition on firearm ownership. However, there are exceptions based on the specific circumstances of the case and any other criminal history.
Individuals with a felony forgery conviction generally lose their gun rights. California law expressly prohibits convicted felons from owning or possessing firearms.
In some cases, individuals who have lost their gun rights due to a felony forgery conviction may have the opportunity to restore those rights. This process often involves seeking a pardon from the Governor of California or pursuing a reduction of the felony conviction to a misdemeanor.
Find a Criminal Attorney Near Me
If you learn that you are under investigation for forgery, obtaining professional legal guidance is imperative. At Long Beach Criminal Attorney, our adept team is ready to review your case and provide you with a comprehensive understanding of your legal options.
With our proven track record and unwavering commitment to our clients, we strive to ensure the best possible outcome for your forgery case. To secure dedicated legal representation and protect your rights, contact us at 562-308-7807.