Forgery can involved of a number of illicit deeds involving the alteration, signing, and creation or using of a particular instrument of either a financial or physical nature. The financial item or physical product could be a knockoff of some name brand, or may consist of signing one’s name on checks, wills, and so forth.
Persons may commit forgery by copycatting another party’s signature to a legally binding document like a contract, settlement check, or living will.
We look deeper into California’s forgery laws and when they become felonies, along with potential penalties and what rights accused persons are afforded.
Legal Definition of Forgery in California
An individual who knowingly and willingly signs, takes control of, and benefits from putting another person’s signature onto a financial instrument, or creates a product that takes away value from its original creator has committed forgery. Wills, codicils, and similar conveyances are included in California Penal Code Sections 470-483.5, Forgery and Counterfeiting.
Forging driver’s licenses or similar government instruments, medical records, school records, and other official instruments leads to being tried under California law unless such actions happened on Federal property, which may then qualify the charges for Federal prosecution.
What Prosecutors Must Prove
Trying forgery cases can be an uphill battle for prosecutors since the burden of proof is much stronger than fraud or other financial crimes.
In order for prosecutors to win a conviction against persons accused of forgery, they must prove:
- An instrument or item exists;
- That item was materially altered or contains a signature bearing a person’s name which is not his or her own;
- The person acted with the intent to defraud a party, company, or government entity.
A common defense to forgery is that the individual did not intend to defraud another.
Punishment for Forgery
Felony forgery charges will ensue when an item exceeds $950 in value, a change enacted by Proposition 47. Should the prosecutor succeed in convicting defendants of forging, sentences can range from two to three years in county jail, or 16 months imprisonment. Fines, fees, and restitution will be tacked onto the sentence, along with potential probation terms.
Anything under $950 in value becomes misdemeanor forgery, which is punishable up to one year in county jail. Federal charges have different penalties, although some forgeries can result in decades behind bars.
How a Forgery Attorney in California can Help
Proving someone took control of an uncashed check, living will, government document, or anything similar may be easier to prove than if someone did not. With handwriting experts, witnesses, and a solid paper trail, a conviction could be a mainstay on someone’s criminal record.
Consider an experienced forgery attorney an investment in your future. Not only can a great criminal defense attorney exonerate you from forgery charges, he or she can clear your name with others who have chided you since your arrest, such as your employer or mainstream media.
James E. Blatt defends forgery cases with an incredible level of devotion, working each case with a primary goal of getting charges dismissed. Find out why retaining a Super Lawyer™ makes a world of difference and contact him today.