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Forgery - California Penal Code 470

California Penal Code 470 makes it an offense to commit forgery, which is the creation of a false written document or alteration of a genuine one, with the intent to defraud. Forgery consists of filling in blanks on a document containing a genuine signature, or materially altering or erasing an existing instrument.

The Best Criminal Defense Attorneys will Require the District Attorney to Prove Multiple Elements Beyond Every Reasonable Doubt:

To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the People must prove that:

  1. The defendant signed someone else’s name or a false name to a document;
  2. The defendant did not have authority to sign that name;
  3. The defendant knew that he/she did not have that authority; AND
  4. When the defendant signed the document, (he/she) intended to defraud. Someone intends to defraud if he or she intends to deceive another person either to cause a loss of money, goods, or services, or something of value), or to cause damage to, a legal, financial, or property right.
  5. As for forgery by endorsement, the value of the check/bond/bank bill/note/cashier’s check/traveler’s check/money order was more than $950.

.2 Witkin & Epstein, California Criminal Law (4th ed. 2012) Crimes Against Property, §§ 165, 168–177;4 Millman, Sevilla & Tarlow, California Criminal Defense Practice, Ch. 85; Submission to Jury and Verdict, § 85.02[2][a][i] (Matthew Bender); 6 Millman, Sevilla & Tarlow, California Criminal Defense Practice, Ch. 143, Crimes Against Property, §143.04[1][b], [c], [d] (Matthew Bender).

Our Criminal Defense Lawyers Will Apply These Defenses to a Charge of Forgery-Penal Code 470:

Common legal defenses include:

  1. No intent to defraud (e.g. only a prank and not for gain);
  2. Defendant was falsely accused;
  3. Coerced confession (California law states that police may not use overbearing measures to coerce a confession);
  4. Consent;
  5. Statute of limitations (1 year if misdemeanor and 3 years if felony);

Punishment for Violations of Penal Code 470 is found in Penal Code 473:

If charged as a misdemeanor, a violation of PC 470 is punishable by: misdemeanor (or summary) probation, custody in county jail for up to one year, and/or a maximum fine of $1,000.

After the passing of Proposition 47 in California, under Penal Code 473, forgery is a misdemeanor offense, unless the forged item exceeds $950.

If found guilty of felony forgery, an individual will be placed on felony or formal probation which generally requires monthly reports or periodic visits with a probation officer, imprisonment in the county jail for up to 3 years and a fine in the maximum amount of $10,000.00.

Alternatives to Criminal Prosecution:

  • Mental Health Diversion

Some defendants who suffer from PTSD, depression or other qualifying mental disorders or developmental disabilities may qualify to participate in a Mental Health Diversion program. In the event that a client qualifies for a Mental Health Diversion program, all of the criminal proceedings in court will terminate while the defendant is in the program. Upon successful completion of the Mental Health Diversion Program, all criminal charged will be dismissed.

Participation in a Mental Health Diversion Program is an alternative to criminal prosecution. If a defendant is qualified by the Court and successfully completes the program, they may very well be eligible for a Petition to Seal which, if granted by the court, effectively eliminates any record whatsoever of the criminal charges or arrest in criminal records that are available to the public.

  • Military Diversion

There is favorable treatment regarding sentencing of afelony conviction for veterans or active military pursuant to PC 1170.91. In addition, veterans may be able to take advantage of a Military Diversion Program in misdemeanor cases. This is a program that benefits veterans or active military who can connect certain mental conditions to military service. Once a veteran is qualified, they are taken completely out of the prosecution process and they begin to participate in the Military Diversion Program. Once that program is completed, not only are the criminal charges dismissed but the veteran is also then in a position to seal their criminal record which will also eliminate the arrest record.

  • Civil Compromise

In misdemeanor cases, the best criminal defense attorneys can occasionally create a "Civil Compromise" wherein an agreement is reached with the alleged victim and restitution is made. As a result, if the victim agrees, we will file a Motion for a Civil Compromise and, if approved by the Court, full restitution is made to the victim and the criminal charges are dismissed. Once the criminal charges are dismissed, then a Petition to Seal can be filed which will effectively eliminate any record of the criminal charges or the arrest on the criminal charges in the criminal records that are available to the general public.

Criminal Record Improvement After Conviction:

  • Expungement/Dismissal of Charges

Even if someone is convicted of a Penal Code 470 violation, upon successful completion of probation, a defendant can file a Petition to Expunge their record and dismiss the charges. This adds a very favorable entry to their criminal record and is extremely helpful when applying for employment, housing, etc.

  • Penal Code 17b- Reducing a Felony to a Misdemeanor

In the event that a defendant is convicted of a felony violation of Penal Code 470 after their probation is successfully completed, they may also petition the Court pursuant to Penal Code 17b to reduce the felony to a misdemeanor . This is a process that is available to someone who is charged with a wobbler crime such as Penal Code 470 and it is a process that our criminal theft attorneys are successfully involved with on a constant basis.

Remember, Ronald Dinan and Associates, is a firm of experienced and aggressive lawyers, who can help in achieving the best outcome in your case. Many times criminal case dispositions will include reduction or outright dismissal of the number and/or severity of criminal charges, diversion programs, probation, reduced fines with installment payments, alternatives to jail, etc.

To get immediate help with your criminal matter, we invite you to call us to discuss your case. We answer all telephone calls in a polite, professional and helpful manner.

  • Santa Rosa - 707-571-5550
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  • Marin - 415-491-0223
  • Lakeport - 707-262-0503
  • Ukiah - 707-462-5950
  • Eureka - 707-445-1348

The Actual Law Itself: California Penal Code 470

(a) Every person who, with the intent to defraud, knowing that he or she has no authority to do so, signs the name of another person or of a fictitious person to any of the items listed in subdivision (d) is guilty of forgery.

(b) Every person who, with the intent to defraud, counterfeits or forges the seal or handwriting of another is guilty of forgery.

(c) Every person who, with the intent to defraud, alters, corrupts, or falsifies any record of any will, codicil, conveyance, or other instrument, the record of which is by law evidence, or any record of any judgment of a court or the return of any officer to any process of any court, is guilty of forgery.

(d) Every person who, with the intent to defraud, falsely makes, alters, forges, or counterfeits, utters, publishes, passes or attempts or offers to pass, as true and genuine, any of the following items, knowing the same to be false, altered, forged, or counterfeited, is guilty of forgery: any check, bond, bank bill, or note, cashier’s check, traveler’s check, money order, post note, draft, any controller’s warrant for the payment of money at the treasury, county order or warrant, or request for the payment of money, receipt for money or goods, bill of exchange, promissory note, order, or any assignment of any bond, writing obligatory, or other contract for money or other property, contract, due bill for payment of money or property, receipt for money or property, passage ticket, lottery ticket or share purporting to be issued under the California State Lottery Act of 1984, trading stamp, power of attorney, certificate of ownership or other document evidencing ownership of a vehicle or undocumented vessel, or any certificate of any share, right, or interest in the stock of any corporation or association, or the delivery of goods or chattels of any kind, or for the delivery of any instrument of writing, or acquittance, release or discharge of any debt, account, suit, action, demand, or any other thing, real or personal, or any transfer or assurance of money, certificate of shares of stock, goods, chattels, or other property whatever, or any letter of attorney, or other power to receive money, or to receive or transfer certificates of shares of stock or annuities, or to let, lease, dispose of, alien, or convey any goods, chattels, lands, or tenements, or other estate, real or personal, or falsifies the acknowledgment of any notary public, or any notary public who issues an acknowledgment knowing it to be false; or any matter described in subdivision (b).

(e) Upon a trial for forging any bill or note purporting to be the bill or note of an incorporated company or bank, or for passing, or attempting to pass, or having in possession with intent to pass, any forged bill or note, it is not necessary to prove the incorporation of the bank or company by the charter or act of incorporation, but it may be proved by general reputation; and persons of skill are competent witnesses to prove that the bill or note is forged or counterfeited.

(Amended by Stats. 2005, Ch. 295, Sec. 5. Effective January 1, 2006.)

The Actual Law Itself: California Penal Code 473

(a) Forgery is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, or by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.

(b) Notwithstanding subdivision (a), any person who is guilty of forgery relating to a check, bond, bank bill, note, cashier’s check, traveler’s check, or money order, where the value of the check, bond, bank bill, note, cashier’s check, traveler’s check, or money order does not exceed nine hundred fifty dollars ($950), shall be punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, except that such person may instead be punished pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 if that person has one or more prior convictions for an offense specified in clause (iv) of subparagraph (C) of paragraph (2) of subdivision (e) of Section 667 or for an offense requiring registration pursuant to subdivision (c) of Section 290. This subdivision shall not be applicable to any person who is convicted both of forgery and of identity theft, as defined in Section 530.5.

(Amended November 4, 2014, by initiative Proposition 47, Sec. 6.)