You commit an offense of forgery when you make a false document or alter a material to suit your interests. Today’s society depends much on people’s ability to receive and pass legitimate documents. Forgery will always harm individuals and businesses. If you are facing criminal charges for an act of forgery, it may be confusing to understand the magnitude of the offense. Forgery charges are severe in California, and a conviction results in severe legal punishment. Should you find yourself or a loved one battling these charges, guidance from a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney will go a long way. At Orange County Criminal Lawyer, we will work hard to guide you and provide legal representation for your case. Our top-notch lawyers serve clients throughout Orange County, CA, to ensure a good outcome for you in the situation.

What is Forgery?

In California, forgery is an offense that arises when you make, alter, or use a falsified document to commit fraud. Our society significantly relies on the ability to produce and present legitimate documents. Forged documents will have serious negative consequences on people and businesses. For this reason, a forgery offense is charged harshly under Penal Code 470 of California. Before the prosecutor can secure a forgery conviction, they need to establish these facts:

Making, Using, Altering or Possession of a Forged Document

When you are being charged with forgery, the first element that a prosecutor needs to prove is that you made or altered a false document. Sometimes, possessing a forged document could be charged under this statute. You create or modify a document by adding, removing, or changing vital information to suit your interests. When proving this fact, the prosecutor should clearly show that your alterations significantly impacted the alleged document.

The Writing on the Document Was False

For writing to be considered false, the material must be altered or fabricated to represent something that is not true. Inserting a false statement does not always result in criminal fraud charges. The alterations you made must have made a significant effect on the meaning of the particular document

Your Actions had a Legal Significance

Before the prosecutor establishes your guilt for forgery, it should be clear that the writing you made had legal significance. This could either be a government-issued document or a document that makes economic significance, such as checks. However, even when the government does not issue the document, recommendation letters can lead to your arrest and subsequent charging with forgery.

You Did Not Have Consent to Take the Action You Took

Forgery arises when you sign another’s signature or use their handwriting in a document t pass as their own. The prosecutor must prove that you did not have consent to sign the paper you did. Sometimes it is difficult for a person to understand the scope of their authority to sign a particular form that could result in forgery charges.

You Acted Intending to Defraud a Person or Entity

An intention to defraud is one of the essential elements that constitute a crime of forgery. Before a conviction is made, the prosecutor must show your plan to commit the act of fraud from your actions. It is vital to understand that even when your efforts did not amount to financial gain, fraudulent intent is enough to get you convicted.

Punishment for After a Penal Code 470 Conviction

Under Penal Code Section 470 of California, the crime of forgery is considered a wobbler. With the discretion of the court, you can be charged with a felony or misdemeanor offense. Sometimes, the court may consider the number and nature of your crime victims when determining the sentence. A felony forgery conviction will subject you to these penalties:

  • A prison sentence of up to three years
  • Up to $10,000 in fines
  • Victim restitution - Most acts of forgery resulting in financial gain will cause a loss to the alleged victim. Should you get convicted in California, you may be subjected to paying back the amount you defrauded.
  • Probation - As an alternative to a prison sentence, the court may subject you to five-year formal probation. Individuals subjected to probation as part of the punishment for a felony offense will have to follow specific probation terms.

For a misdemeanor conviction Under Penal Code 470, a defendant will receive the following punishment:

  • A one-year jail sentence
  • Court fines amounting to $1,000
  • Misdemeanor probation

In California, some factors may prompt the court to enhance your forgery penalties, and they include:

  • If you forged a document intending to defraud multiple victims, your penalties might be increased.
  • When a document is forged to commit financial fraud against victims of a disaster, penalties for the offense could be enhanced.
  • Your jail sentence may be enhanced with two years if you defrauded an amount equal to or exceeding $100,000

In addition to the above legal consequences, having a criminal record for forgery would be detrimental for your personal and professional life. Most employers will do a background check on potential employees. Securing a job with such a record could be quite tricky. When you are battling criminal charges for forgery in California, you should consider getting some legal guidance.

Defenses Relevant to a Forgery Criminal Case

Not all forgery criminal cases result in a conviction. If you are facing these charges, all hope is not lost, your criminal lawyer can help you present these arguments for a chance to fight the charges:

  1. Argue that you had consent from the alleged victim. Lack of consent is an aspect that indicates that you have committed forgery. If you can show that the person whose handwriting you signed permitted you, you can fight forgery charges. However, you can find it hard to establish consent when a written document is not present.
  2. Lack of knowledge that your actions were fraudulent. You commit forgery if you knowingly sign or alter a document fraudulently. If you can prove that you never knew your actions’ illegal nature, you can have a chance to get your penalties reduced.
  3. You can argue that the evidence is misleading. Sometimes evidence may be geared towards showing that you are guilty of an offense you know nothing about. Signatures could look alike, and you are mistaken for the person who altered a document. With proper legal guidance, you can prove that you were not involved in perpetuating the crime.
  4. As a defense to your case, you can claim that you lacked an intention to commit fraud. An intent to defraud is a crucial element that a prosecutor must show before a forgery conviction. When the objective is not clear, you cannot be connected to the offense. Your attorney can help create some doubt in the prosecutor’s evidence on your intention. This can help you get a penalty reduction or dismissal of the case.
  5. Lack of significance to the documents you presented legally. Not all forged documents can qualify the definition of forgery under Section 470 of the California Penal Code. The alterations you made must have some significance to what the form represented. By arguing that the changes you made were not significant, you can fight these charges.
  6. Coercion. Sometimes a person in authority may use their position to force or threaten you to forge a document. If this was the case, you could defend yourself using this argument. However, you need to show proof of the coercion.

Crimes that are Related to Forgery in California

When you think of forgery, most individuals will consider altering documents or signing other people’s names on documents. Sometimes, you undertake actions, and forgery is one of the offenses you could be charged with. There are several offenses that directly or indirectly relate to Penal Code 470 of California, and they include:

Bad Checks

It is a criminal offense to write and pass a bad check in California. The following are the critical elements that constitute the offense under Penal Code 476(a):

  • You made, used or attempted to use a check for payment.
  • When you made or used the document, there were insufficient funds to cover your payment.
  • You were aware of the inadequate funds in your account.
  • When you acted, you had an intention to commit fraud.

If you fraudulently altered a check to read an amount you could not pay, you can be charged with bad checks alongside forgery. Penal Code 476(a) is a California wobbler. The offense can be charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor. The value of the bad check and your past convictions may be considered when determining the crime’s nature. A misdemeanor offense will carry a one-year jail sentence and $1,000 in fines.

A felony conviction, of the other hand, will result in a jail sentence not exceeding three years. If you are found guilty of making or presenting a bad check, the victim can sue you in civil court to recover the full amount of the bill. Making or giving a bad check is an offense that will negatively affect a person who gets convicted.

Grand Theft

Grand theft is unlawfully taking property belonging to someone else. For this crime, the value of the property taken must exceed $950. There are different ways to commit grand theft, including grand theft by trick, larceny, or even embezzlement. If you forge a document and end up defrauding another person of $950 or more, you can be charged with grand theft and forgery. The elects of grand theft are:

  • You took something that belonged to someone else
  • You did not have permission from the owner to take possession of the property
  • You deprived the property owner of its possession

The value of the property involved was $950 or more

Depending on your criminal history and circumstances surrounding the case, the court will determine how to charge your offense. When the value of the property you stole was high, or you had a prior conviction, you will be charged with a felony. Felony convictions will always deter your attempts to secure employment in the future. Therefore, you should consider getting legal guidance when you are facing these charges.

Petty Theft

Petty theft is the most frequently charged type of crime in California. A crime is considered petty theft if the value of the stolen property was less than $950. If a property was stolen directly from another person, the offense is charged as petty theft. If you forged documents that brought you a financial gain of $950, you could face charges for petty theft as an addition to forgery.

When a prosecutor is proving your guilt, under Penal Code 470, they need to establish these facts:

  • You took property that belonged to another person.
  • You lacked permission from the property owner.
  • When you took the property, you intended to remove possession from the owner.
  • The property in question was valued at $950 or less.

In most cases, petty theft will be charged together with forgery when you committed the offense through embezzlement. Embezzlement is a white-collar crime that involves the unlawful conversion of property ownership. In California, petty theft is charged as a misdemeanor whose conviction attracts a six months jail sentence. After a sentence, you may be mandated to restitute the victim of the property you stole. For individuals with a criminal history, petty theft may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony with discretion. If your spouse or relative faces petty theft charges after committing forgery, you will require guidance from a knowledgeable criminal lawyer.

Expunging a Forgery Conviction in California

Forgery is a serious offense, and the consequences of a conviction could affect you for a long time. An expungement of your criminal record offers you relief from the effects of your criminal record. Whether you were convicted for a misdemeanor or a felony, you will have a chance to get relief for your records if:

  • You are not facing any criminal charges, and you aren’t serving a sentence currently.
  • You have completed probation. You complete probation when you have completed all the terms of your probation and did not commit a new offense while on probation.

A person applying for an expungement of forgery records must indeed have completed probation successfully. However, even when you have violated probation, the court may grant you a hearing to determine your relief eligibility. In this case, your overall performance when you were on probation and your criminal history is considered.

If you want to get relief for your forgery conviction, the following steps will be followed:

  • Your petition will be analyzed to determine whether or not you are eligible for the relief.
  • Perfuming research on the relevant laws
  • Filing of the appropriate documents within the expected time
  • Attending the hearing for your expungement

After hearing your petition, the judge will permit you to withdraw your ‘not guilty’ plea or set aside your guilty verdict. The charges will then be dismissed, and you will be relieved of all the conviction’s consequences. When you are offered relief for your forgery conviction, you are likely to accrue the following benefits:

  • Your potential employers will not have the authority to discriminate against you based on your record.
  • After an expungement, you can easily apply for professional licenses.
  • Your credibility as a witness in a criminal court cannot be dismissed based on an expunged criminal record.
  • Getting convicted under Penal Code will have severe immigration consequences. However, after you erase the record, you could avoid immigration consequences like getting deported.

Frequently Asked Questions on Penal Code 470b of California

If you get accused of forgery in California, you probably have numerous questions on your next move and how to get yourself out of the situation. The most frequently asked questions are often centered on the criminal process conviction and penalties, and they include:

  1. Can a criminal lawyer help me avoid a conviction for forgery?

Whether or not you will face a jail sentence after a forgery conviction depends on the nature of your charges and your criminal record. When you are charged with a misdemeanor, you may face a jail sentence of one year. For a felony offense, your prison sentence may be up to three years. In an attempt to keep you out of jail, your attorney could come up with some defenses. Sometimes, these defenses are geared towards putting doubt in the prosecutor’s testimony, while others disregard your crime involvement. With proper justification, your attorney could help keep you out of jail.

  1. Can Forgery charges be dropped?

The crime of forgery is a wobbler. The court can charge the offense as a felony or a misdemeanor. The nature in which you are charged will depend on the circumstances surrounding the case and your criminal history. With the defense that your criminal lawyer presents, a doubt may be created in the evidence brought against you. In this case, your lawyer can negotiate with the prosecutor to reduce or dismiss your charges.

  1. If I did not gain financially from the forged document, can I still be convicted under Penal Code section 470?

Unfortunately, failure to benefit from an altered document cannot apply as a defense to your criminal case. The moment you changed a form intending to help yourself, you have committed the offense. An intention to benefit from your crime is the most crucial aspect of your case. Whether or not the financial gain will not be considered when making a conviction for forgery in California. Therefore, you can still be convicted even when you returned a check you had altered.

  1. Will forgery Charges Remain in my record for a lifetime?

Although forgery is a severe offense in California, you can get rid of it through expungement or sealing your record. An expungement ensures that the crime is not found on your record by potential employers doing a background check. With an expunged forgery conviction, potential employers cannot discriminate against you based on a past crime. You do not have to deal with the consequences of a forgery conviction, with guidance from a knowledgeable attorney, you can petition the court to expunge or seal your record.

  1. Are there any Immigration consequences of a forgery conviction in California?

In California, forgery is considered a severe crime of moral turpitude. A conviction will have damaging immigration consequences. If you are a non-citizen, you may get deported as part of the penalties for your offense. You may be rendered inadmissible in that if you leave the country, you cannot return. Guidance from a criminal lawyer is crucial for you if you face Penal Code 470 charges.

  1. Will I be subjected to probation after a conviction for forgery?

Forgery is punishable with one-year probation when convicted as a misdemeanor and a three-year probation sentence for a felony. Probation could be an alternative to a jail sentence. However,not all individuals who get convicted for forgery are entitled to probation. With some legal guidance from your criminal lawyer, you can convince the prosecutor to offer you a probation sentence. When serving probation for a felony or misdemeanor offense are required to adhere to the terms of probation, as stipulated by the court. Some of the terms of probation include regular check ins with the court and payment of all court fines and charges.

Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

If you alter or falsify a document for financial gain, you can be arrested and charged with forgery Under Penal Code 470. Forgery charges could be devastating, and the punishment that accompanies a conviction is severe. The consequences of such an offense are likely to affect both your personal and professional life. Fortunately, not all individuals who face criminal charges for forgery are convicted in California. Your attorney can help you present some defenses to get your penalties reduced, or your charges dropped altogether. Seeking legal guidance from an Orange County Criminal Lawyer is one of the best decisions you can make for your case. Call us today at 714-262-4833 from any location in Orange County, CA, and we will guide you through the situation.