Forgery includes a number of activities related to the signing, altering, making, or using of a written instrument. The instrument may be handwritten, printed, typed, or otherwise recorded. For example, someone could commit forgery by signing another person's name to a document with legal effect, such as a check, will, or contract. Someone could also commit forgery by writing a new will and passing the document as the will of another person. According to California's forgery and counterfeiting laws, the individual must have acted with an intent to defraud the victim for personal or financial gain.
See Selling Fakes on Online for related information.
Overview of California Forgery and Counterfeiting Laws
The following chart gives a look at the elements of forgery and counterfeiting, as well as the penalties for these crimes:
|Statutes||California Penal Code Sections 470-483.5|
|Elements of Forgery||
In a case of forgery, a prosecutor must establish three elements by:
The defense to forgery or counterfeiting charges is found where the accused lacked intent to defraud.
Counterfeiting describes the unlawful imitation or duplication of documents and other items with legal significance. Most commonly, counterfeiting refers to:
As with forgery, the prosecutor must prove that defendant engaged in counterfeiting activities with an intent to defraud. In general, counterfeiting results in felony charges; however, California state law does permit a misdemeanor prosecution for the counterfeiting of specified items, such as transit tickets or sports trading cards.
The defendant's punishment depends on whether the state charged the defendant with a misdemeanor or a felony.
For either crime, the state may also consider the defendant's criminal record and any applicable aggravating factors to determine whether the defendant should serve the term of imprisonment in state prison instead of in county jail.
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
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Forgery and counterfeiting laws have a very wide range of potential consequences. A competent lawyer can help ensure that you mount the strongest defense possible. Contact a local attorney to discuss your case at a free initial case review and receive some advice about how best to proceed.
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