Will I Go to Jail Time If Charged with Forgery in California?

California Penal Code 470 PC describes the crime of forgery as falsifying a signature or fraudulently altering specific documents. Fraud can occur when someone signs someone else's name, forges another person's handwriting, alters or falsifies any legal record, or counterfeits certain documents like checks, bonds, and money orders.

Forgery is a type of fraud or white collar crime because it intends to damage another party without the knowledge of being defrauded. Penal Code 470 PC forgery is far more than just signing another person's name on a piece of paper. It's also a crime to alter or falsify documents with an intent to defraud, including:

  • personal or business checks,
  • money orders,
  • property deeds,
  • real estate lease,
  • stock certificates,
  • traveler's checks,
  • mortgage documents.

Under PC 470, someone “intends to defraud” if they lie or deceive to deprive them of money or property. It does not matter if a victim was defrauded or suffered a financial loss. Penal Code 470 PC is a “wobbler” that can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony crime based on the amount of loss and the defendant's criminal record.

A conviction for felony forgery can result in up to three years in prison, a $10,000 fine, and victim restitution. Related crimes for Penal Code 470 PC forgery include the following:

  • Penal Code 484f PC – credit card fraud,
  • Penal Code 476 PC – check fraud,
  • Penal Code 132 PC – offer false evidence,
  • Penal Code 134 PC – prepare false evidence.

Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers are reviewing this crime below for more information.

What Primary Factors Are Prosecutors Looking At in Forgery Cases

Whether you will get jail time is going to depend on several different factors:

Forgery Laws in California - Penal Code 470 PC
  • amount of money involved,
  • criminal record,
  • type of forgery offense,

First, the authorities will look to see how much money was involved.  If someone or some entity lost you forged documentation related to some white-collar offense and thousands of dollars, you could bet the authorities are going to try to put you in prison.

If, on the other hand, you've forged something and there wasn't much money involved, you stand a much better chance to keep out of custody. They're also going to look at your criminal record.  Have you ever done anything like this before?  Do you have any strikes on your record?

Is there anything else on your record that gives them concern that you are a danger to the community and others? Also, when they evaluate whether you're going to do jail or prison in this type of offense, they will look at whether or not this is part of a large scheme.

In other words, what documents are you forging?  Have you ever done this before?  Is this something involving passports, for example, or some official government documents? If they determine that it is serious and sophisticated and consists of a lot of money with a lot of victims involved, then, of course, the prosecutors and judge are going to try to put you in prison.

So, the question becomes, if you're facing prison because of a forgery case or your facing county jail — which is not much different. Men's county jail, the jail at the Regional Center in Lynwood for Women, they're not fun. They're not good places to be.  They're probably worse than prison.  You've got to figure out how you're going to avoid this type of sentence.

Defenses for PC 470 Forgery Charges

This is where having a great criminal defense attorney by your side who knows how to handle PC 470 forgery cases is crucial.

  • first, we're going to sit down and talk about the case;
  • flush out all of the facts and give me all of the details;
  • don't leave anything out, so I have the whole puzzle of what's going on.

Don't be like most people and give the stuff that helps you.  You've got to talk about what the police and prosecutors are going to say about what you did, what witnesses might say so that we can get the whole picture.

Once we have that, the next step will be deciding if we will fight the case because they can't prove it or do they have the evidence. If they've got the evidence — and probably better than 90% of the time, they do — then we need to figure out what we will do.  What are you facing?  What can you do to help yourself?

If you forged some document and someone's lost some money or some goods or property, can we get it back for them?  Because if we can get it back for them, we're helping the prosecutors.  If we allow the prosecutors, they're going to help us.

Developing a Strategy for Best Outcome on Forgery Cases

So, we need to figure out our strategy from the beginning.  We need to get our road map because once we have our road map, you and I will work together. You're going to do your part, and I'm going to do my part, and we're going to get the result we must have.  So, first, we have to get the road map.

We have to sit down and figure out how we're going to deal with your case, and then we have to execute the plan to get you the result you must have. Forgery is a serious crime.  It's a type of offense you don't want on your record because when people decide to hire you for a job, any kind of theft-related offense like forgery will not look good and will prevent you from doing what you want.

Criminal Defense for California Forgery Cases

So, we've got to figure out all of the angles, not just keeping you out of jail or prison, but also felony or misdemeanor. We, of course, would rather have a misdemeanor than a felony.

We've got to figure out whether you have to plead forgery or if you can lead to something else that doesn't look as bad on your record.

That's why you hire somebody like me who has had a lot of success.  Because I know what it takes to get you the best result.  I've seen every angle.

I've dealt with hundreds of forgery cases, and I'm going to be by your side every step of the way. Take the first step and pick up the phone.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.  I stand at the ready to help you.

Hedding Law Firm is based in Los Angeles County at 16000 Ventura Blvd #1208 Encino, CA 91436. We offer a free case consultation at (213) 542-0940.