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What is the Penalty for Forgery in California?

What is the Penalty for Forgery in California?

In grade school, putting your name on someone else’s paper, changing a grade, or writing a note pretending to be someone else could get you detention or at least a good talking to and a note home.

As an adult, a similar type of crime could get you jail time and significant fines if convicted due to the strict forgery punishment California offers.

California Penal Code 470

According to Penal Code 470, examples of forgery can include trying to deposit someone else’s checks or claiming their financial information is yours; rewriting and falsifying a will, a property deed, a contract, or other legal documents; or claiming to be someone else by tampering with a signature, photo or a seal in official paperwork such as a license. Falsifying documents California residents may have like stocks, plane tickets, concert tickets, even lottery tickets could also lead to a forgery charge, as could writing your own check that’s more than your balance.

Penalties for Forgery in California

Do you think forgery is a misdemeanor or is forgery a felony? The answer depends on the dollar value that someone is accused of using forgery to access. Anything above $950 in value is charged as a felony, and anything below this is a misdemeanor.

  • The maximum state penalty for felony forgery is 16 months in state prison or 2-3 years in a county jail. They also may be required to pay restitution and up to $10,000 in fine.
  • A misdemeanor forgery conviction typically faces a year in county jail plus smaller financial penalties. Federal sentences may be higher.

Defending Against Forgery Charges

An experienced attorney familiar with forgery law in California is a must-have advocate you need. Prosecutors typically have a high burden to prove to convince a jury or judge that a document or a signature is false and that you were the one responsible for it. This could require everything from showing what the proper document should look like or having a handwriting expert discuss a specific signature or document and why it is believed to be false.

Prosecutors must try to show that you clearly intended to defraud someone, that you used certain writing specified in forgery legal documentation, and you falsely manipulated the writing.

In California, there are options for signature forgery punishment, especially those with a generally clean background or extenuating circumstances. One of these is a “bad check diversion” program which typically requires you to pay restitution and take financial literacy classes, but doesn’t include jail time. If all conditions are met, the conviction could be removed from your record. For those who have wondered can forgery charges be dropped, this is one path.

Plea agreements from a felony to misdemeanor offense are also another option that might satisfy a judge or prosecutor and avoid a trial.

For a felony, prosecutors have four years until the statute of limitations on forgery in California expires, and one year for misdemeanor forgery after the crime is committed or discovered.

Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

At Premier Criminal Defense, we have worked with thousands of people in need of experienced legal representation against forgery charges. Our criminal defense attorney in San Diego can advise you on the most effective approach to taking action. Give us a call at (619) 439-0252, or fill out our online contact form.