Signing someone else's name with the intent to defraud is forgery. If you are arrested on forgery charges, the crime can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Felony forgery charges can result in up to three years in prison. If you have been charged with forgery, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to give you the best chance of avoiding jail and keeping a clean record.
Under California Penal Code 470, every person who signs the name of another person or of a fictitious person with the intent to defraud is guilty of forgery. Counterfeiting, altering, or falsifying the handwriting of another person is also considered forgery.
The penal code includes a number of specific items subject to forgery charges, including a check, bond, money order, warrant, receipt, promissory note, or lottery ticket. This also applies to altering a will, conveyance of property, or other instruments of record.
As an example, if a caretaker of a family member took a check out of the family member's checkbook and made it out to themselves and signed it without authorization, they may be guilty of forgery. However, if the family member told the caretaker to take a check as payment and to go ahead and sign for them, it may not be considered forgery.
Like many other criminal offenses, assisting someone with forgery may carry the same penalties as committing forgery. Helping someone commit forgery by taking the document to be forged, passing off the forged document, or accepting the forged document as valid with the knowledge that it was forged can result in misdemeanor or felony forgery charges.
Penalties for forgery depend on a number of factors, including the individual's criminal history, value of the fraud involved, and the forgery victim. If the value of the forgery is less than $950, it will likely be charged as a misdemeanor, with the maximum penalty of one year in jail. However, forgery involving multiple offenses or forgery involving a lot of money may be charged as a felony with the maximum penalty of 3 years in prison.
In addition to jail time, sentencing for forgery can include additional penalties. Judges can impose fines and fees, community service, restitution, and charges for the cost of the investigation and probation. A felony conviction also carries restrictions on gun ownership and can hinder job opportunities in the future.
Federal Forgery Charges
Depending on the type of forgery involved, it can also be charged as a federal crime. Under 18. U.S. Code Chapter 12, forgery of government checks or bonds is a federal offense. Forgery involving banks, securities, internet transactions, or multiple states can also be a federal offense. Sentences for federal criminal charges may lead to prison time in the federal penitentiary.
Other Forgery Charges
Allegations of forgery can also result in other criminal charges. This includes claims of identity theft, fraud, check fraud, credit card fraud, or counterfeiting. These crimes may carry similar penalties as forgery; however, in some cases, forgery can result in multiple criminal charges. For example, if someone forged a check and used a fake driver's license to cash the check, the individual could be charged with forgery, identity theft, check fraud, and possessing a fake ID to commit forgery.
Forgery of a prescription for medication may be charged as a Health and Safety Code violation. When a prescription is forged for narcotic drugs, it can result in misdemeanor or felony charges. Prescription drug fraud can involve stealing blank prescriptions and filling them out or altering a prescription for more drugs or additional refills.
Prescription forgery often involves narcotics such as morphine, fentanyl, OxyContin, Valium, Vicodin, Xanax or other drugs. In some cases, an individual who has forged a prescription will then sell the narcotics to others. This can also result in criminal drug charges in addition to prescription forgery.
Defenses to Forgery Charges
In some cases, forgery may be difficult to detect. Forging a will may go unnoticed, with the forger benefiting from the estate even if it was not the intention of the person who made the will. Similarly, one could easily be accused of forgery by another family member who thought the will was too generous to someone else. Forgery in such cases can be difficult to prove, and almost as difficult to disprove. As a result, many people are innocently accused of forgery.
There are a number of possible defenses to forgery charges, depending on the specific circumstances involved. In many cases, an individual is authorized to sign documents for another person, including checks or money orders. Additionally, if someone signed a document but had no intent to defraud anyone, they may claim that as a defense to forgery charges. Some individuals may claim a document was forged just because they regretted signing the document and do not want to be held to their decision. Your experienced East Bay criminal defense attorney will be able to identify the best defenses in your forgery 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 forgery 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.