Changing or reproducing an item to pass it off as legitimate may be considered counterfeiting. This includes using counterfeit money, making fake IDs, or selling fake designer purses. Counterfeiting is a serious offense in California, with penalties including up to four years in prison. If you have been charged with criminal counterfeiting, contact an experienced East Bay criminal defense attorney today.
California Counterfeiting Charges
Under the California Penal Code, there are a number of penalties related to criminal forgery. This includes:
- Counterfeiting a public seal
- Counterfeiting the handwriting of another
- Using counterfeit checks or money orders
- Counterfeiting a driver's license
- Passing counterfeit items
- Using counterfeit money or coins
- Using counterfeit bus or metro tickets
Counterfeiting can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the extent of the counterfeiting involved, the amount of fraud involved, and the defendant's criminal history.
As a misdemeanor, counterfeiting could result in up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. The defendant may also be liable to the victims for the amount of money lost.
As a felony, counterfeiting could result in up to 3 years in prison for each count and a fine of up to $10,000. In addition, a felony conviction can make it more difficult for an individual to find a job and be prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm in California.
Counterfeiting California IDs or Records
Under California Penal Code 470a, it is a crime to alter, falsify, forge, duplicate, or counterfeit any driver's license or identification card with the intent to use the card to commit forgery. This could include using a counterfeit driver's license to try and pass a stolen check or for a 20-year-old to get into a bar to buy alcohol.
Under California Penal Code 472, it is a crime to counterfeit the state seal or seal of any state office or corporation, with the intent to defraud. Anyone who counterfeits any impression of a seal, conceals a counterfeited seal, or possesses a counterfeit seal is guilty of forgery. This may include using a fake court document to try and threaten someone or using a fake seal to collect money on a fraudulent account.
Selling Counterfeit Products
Some of the most commonly counterfeited products in California include software, clothing, shoes, or accessories. For example, a designer handbag may cost $5,000 or more. Many consider buying a knock-off bag a victimless crime and will opt for a fake designer bag costs 1/10th of the price. This may be available from a street vendor, swap meet, or even a secret area in the back of a store.
Many people do not even consider buying or selling counterfeit products, such as designer handbags, much of a crime. However, California and federal law enforcement agencies regularly crack down on individuals selling counterfeit trademarked products.
Under California Penal Code 350, any person who manufactures, sells, or possesses for sale any counterfeit registered mark may be guilty of counterfeiting. The penalties depend on the number of counterfeit products involved and the number of people involved.
When the offense involves less than 1,000 articles, or with a total retail market value of not more than $950, the defendant may face a maximum of one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. However, if the defendant is a business entity, they face a fine of up to $200,000.
When the offense involves 1,000 counterfeit articles, or has a retail value of over $950, the defendant may face up to 3 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000. However, if the defendant is a business entity, they may face a fine of up to $1 million.
Prior convictions for counterfeiting may result in an increased penalties. In addition, upon conviction, the court may order the forfeiture and destruction of all the counterfeit goods.
Under California Penal Code 475, it is also a crime of forgery to possess or receive, with the intent to pass or sell, any counterfeit item.
Counterfeit Checks or Credit Cards
It is a crime to counterfeit or use a false check, cashier's check, traveler's', check or money order with the intent to defraud. Check fraud and credit card fraud are some of the most common types of counterfeiting in California. Depending on the type of actions involved, counterfeiting a check or credit card could also result in forgery, fraud, and identity theft charges.
Using Counterfeit Money
Using, possessing, or counterfeiting money is a criminal offense that is punishable by two, three, or four years in state prison. Under California Penal Code 477, it is a crime to counterfeit any gold or silver coins. Under California Penal Code 480, it is also a crime to possess any die, plate, or machine used to manufacture counterfeit coins or bills.
Counterfeiting money could involve using sophisticated printing machines to produce realistic looking fake money. Or it could also involve photocopying or printing out fake money on a home computer. Even if the defendant never manages to pass off any of the fake money, they could still face up to 4 years in prison for possessing the counterfeiting paraphernalia.
Defenses to Counterfeiting Charges
There are a number of possible defenses to counterfeiting charges. Some individuals may be unaware that they are in possession of a counterfeit product or tried to pay for something with a counterfeit bill. Your experienced East Bay criminal defense attorney will be able to identify the best defenses in your counterfeiting case to give you the best chance of success.
Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
Lynn Gorelick has more than 30 years of criminal defense experience and understands the penalties involved with criminal counterfeiting charges. She understands how to approach the facts of each individual case for the greatest chance of success, keeping her clients out of jail and maintaining a clean record. If you are facing criminal forgery charges anywhere in Contra Costa County or Alameda County, contact Lynn Gorelick, who understands you do not have to plead guilty just because you were arrested.