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Forgery Laws in California - Penal Code 470 PC

The federal government takes the crime of forgery very seriously. Our Los Angeles criminal attorneys are here to help you and fight on your behalf. Forgery is when a defendant knowingly alters, creates, or uses a written document, intending to commit a fraud. If there is no intent to defraud then there is no crime of forgery.

California Penal Code 470 defines forgery as a “wobbler” which means that it may be


charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

Forgery can take many different forms when it comes to criminal cases in Los Angeles.  One case that I recently did, someone had stolen a check from a lawyer's office and then went to the bank where that check was drawn on and pretended like they were the attorney, forged the attorney's signature and cashed the check. They did that multiple times.

Federal Forgery Cases

This case actually ended up in federal court.  Usually when you have a forgery cases and law enforcement is prosecuting it and you don't work out some sort of a resolution by way of a plea bargain, what ends up happening is, in order to prove the forgery and be able to convict a person of a crime, typically the prosecutors are going to need an expert to come in to be able to provide evidence that the signature they're claiming is a forgery, actually is a forgery and it's not the defendant's check and it's not the person's signature who it's supposed to be.

Then they're going to need an exemplar from the defendants.  They're going to have to try to get their hands somehow on something that the defendant has written or signed.  A lot of times they'll execute search warrants of that person's house to be able to do that, because they're' not just going to say, write something down on here because the person can try to disguise their handwriting and make it much more difficult for the expert to be able to confirm whether or not it's a forgery.

Then they're obviously going to need an exemplar of the person's signature who is in charge of that particular check.  There's a lot of different ways that this can come up.  It really kind of depends on exactly what is being alleged in relation to the forgery.

Various Types of Forgery Cases

Other documents can be forged — whether they be at the Department of Motor Vehicles, real estate documents — there's all sorts of different examples of cases where forgery can come up and it really has to do with signing somebody's name when you're not authorized to do so and it's usually in some sort of an official setting where somebody is gaining some sort of goods or services, or something that they normally couldn't gain without doing the forgery.

If it's a forgery and there's also the loss of money attached to it — for example, somebody forges something and then they get a bunch of money, obviously that is going to also be an issue.

Reviewing Best Defense Strategy

So, what I like to have you do if you have a forgery case is have you come in.  We sit down and go over everything related to the case and we first decide whether or not there's actually a defense to the forgery allegations or whether the prosecutor is going to be able to prove the case.

Sometimes, if there is a defense and it's important enough to you, we're going to get our own expert to be able to testify about things that are mitigating and helpful to us related to the alleged forgery in Los Angeles county, and obviously that expert can provide a report that we can show the prosecutors to try to get them to either dismiss the case or try to mitigate it down to some lesser charge.

If that's not possible, then we can use that expert to testify at a trial on your behalf to be able to try to prove you not guilty of this alleged forgery.  So, the first thing is to get you, sit down, talk about it, decide what the strategy is going to be.  Once we decide the strategy in a forgery case, that will pretty much dictate what happens next.

If convicted of misdemeanor forgery, you face a maximum county jail sentence of one year. If convicted of a felony, you face a California State Prison sentence of 16 months or two or three years.

If you are convicted of felony forgery and have at least one or two prior “strikes” on your record, you will be subject to a significantly greater prison sentence under California Three Strikes Law.

Our Los Angeles federal criminal defense lawyers can and will help you if you have been charged with forgery. There are defenses we can use to fight on your behalf. Contact our law firm anytime 24/7 so we can answer all your legal question.