California Penal Code 470 PC is more commonly called the forgery statute. The crime is considered a white collar crime. In many cases the crime is very simple but the resulting loss to the victim is so severe that prosecutors aggressively seek out people suspected of committing forgery in Los Angeles. If you, or a loved one, is being investigated for a Los Angeles forgery, then contact the Kraut Law Group. Mr. Kraut is a former prosecutor and was educated at Harvard Law School. He was a member of the Major Frauds Division, an elite white collar prosecution unit, of the District Attorney’s Office. He is chosen to by law enforcement, prosecutor and judges to represent their families when they are arrested for serious crimes. Mr. Kraut provides aggressive legal defense for his clients.
What is the definition of Forgery in California?
The statute makes it illegal to knowingly alter, make, or use any written document with the intent to commit any fraud. Simply put, it is a crime to create or alter a document in order to gain anything of value. The Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys at the Kraut Law Group have extensive experience handling California forgery cases both as former prosecutors and now as top rated defense attorneys. Contact the Kraut Law Group for a free consultation.
A forgery occurs when the suspect has the specific intent, or mind set, to commit a fraud and signs another person’s name or signature to gain a benefit. The benefit often is financial such as in take a check belonging to another person and signing the true owners name without their permission. Another way that a person can commit a Los Angeles forgery is falsify a will or other legal document. This often happens in elder abuse cases in which a person who is trusted by an elderly person writes a will and copies the victim’s signature to gain a benefit.
The crime is not fully completed until the counterfeit item is then “uttered” or passed to another person. Therefore, it is still a crime to steal someone else’s check and sign someone’s signature, the crime of forgery is not completed until the check is handed over to the teller or deposited into an account. Up until that point, the crime of attempted forgery in violation of Penal Code Section 664/470 PC is the only white collar crime committed.
The passing of the object completes the intent portion of the crime so that if the money was transferred, then the victim would be defrauded. The prosecutor must prove two simple elements. First, did you take or alter an item and secondly, did you do the act with the specific intent to defraud. Because the act is completed upon the passing of the
As long as these two requirements are met, it doesn't matter whether the funds were transferred or that the victim was actually defrauded in any manner or if you were paid that you returned the funds. The crime is fully completed upon the passing of the document or instrument.
The intent portion of the crime, as with all theft crimes, must satisfy the “specific intent” requirement. Specific intent refers to the actual knowledge of the wrong doing before the act occurs. The prosecution can prove this through circumstantial evidence. The manner of which the check is taken or how the item is passed will raise indicate the intent to take property.
The classic example of violating California forgery law, Penal Code Section 470 PC is the writing of check belonging to another person. If Person “A” owns a checkbook and Person “B” takes one of the checks from the book without permission then a simple theft has occurred. But, if Person “A” then writes out the check and signs Person “B’s” signature and deposits the check into his own account, then a California forgery has occurred. Cashing a forged check can be prosecuted under this code section even if the person passing the check did not write the check but instead received it from another person.
While a forged check is the classic example of a forgery, as technology has changed, so has the definition of the crime. Los Angeles credit card theft can also be prosecuted under Penal Code Section 470 PC. While the passing of the credit card of another person without their permission is a crime, it does rise to the level of forgery until the credit card slip is signed after it is run.
It is also a crime to forging the signature or hand writing of another person if done without permission.
The prosecution will be able to prove the forgery through testimony of the victim as well as using a hand writing expert. That person will be able to compare the writing of the true owner of the check with that of the person who is being investigated. Hand writing is virtually as distinct as finger prints. Law enforcement also use very detailed technology to retrieve DNA and finger prints off the document.
Defenses to a California Forgery
There are several defenses to the crime of forgery. Because the law is so complicated it is important to hire a white collar criminal defense attorney as soon as you learn that you are being investigated. Handling any forgery case in a pre-filing capacity may prevent charges from being filed against you.
- Permission: This defense quite simply states that while the signature on the document is not that of the true owner of the document. Instead, the owner of the document gave the suspect permission to sign their name.
- Lack of passing of the item: One of the elements of the offense is the forged is “passed” or “uttered” to another person. The mere writing of the document is not a completed forgery.
- Lack of intent: The prosecutor must prove that the suspect “intended” to commit the crime.
The Penalties for a California Forgery
California Penal Code 470 PC, forgery, is a “wobbler” offense. That means that it can be either be filed as a felony or a misdemeanor. The prosecutor will make this determination based upon a number of factors. These factors include the suspect’s criminal record, the amount of the loss, and the age or status of the victim.
If the crime is charged as a misdemeanor then the maximum penalty is a year in jail and a fine of $1000. However, if the case is filed as felony, then the penalty can be extreme. Passing a forged check in excess of $400 can result in a three year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine. However, the felony sentence can be increased based upon the amount of loss or the prior record of the suspect. The three strikes law has significantly increased.If you or a loved one has been arrested or investigated in a Los Angeles forgery case, then contact Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group to discuss your case in a confidential manner. Mr. Kraut has represented many people facing these charges and knows how to protect his clients. Call (323) 464-6453 for a free consultation.