San Diego Forgery Defense Attorney
Forgery is a white-collar crime involves an attempt to commit fraud by signing another’s name, falsifying documents or other fraudulent behavior. Forgery accusations call into question a person honesty and integrity, forever altering a person’s professional reputation and ability to do business.
San Diego forgery attorney Stephen Cline has defended people charged with crimes like forgery for over 20 years. His range of experience handling criminal defense cases makes him well-equipped to help each client who walks through his door. He understands how each case requires unique attention and carries its own set of circumstances.
It’s best to speak to a defense attorney before being questioned or giving a statement to anyone. If you have been charged with a forgery crime, contact The Law Offices of Stephen G. Cline to learn about what your legal options are. Our consultations are free with no obligation.
What is Forgery?
Signing someone else’s name doesn’t make a person automatically guilty of a forgery crime. There must be fraudulent intent to alter or falsify a document for that person to use for his or her own benefit.
Forgery is charged as either a misdemeanor or felony in California. A conviction may carry a sentence that involves jail, hefty fines or both. For you to be convicted of forgery, there has to be proof that you intended to act fraudulently by, for example:
- Falsifying someone else’s handwriting or signature
- Changing or fake a legal document such as a will or deed
- Faking or presenting a false financial document like a check
Let’s say a person decides to fake a written prescription because they’ve run out of pain pills or forges a signature on someone else’s check with the intent to cash it. There is fraudulent intent behind these activities. With proven intent attached to it, it can be illegal.
Forgery Laws in California
According to California Penal Code Section 470, any person who has the intent to defraud another is guilty of forgery.
There are several types of forgery cases, each calling for a specific defense based on the situation and other variables, such as previous criminal activity of the defendant.
Many people commonly associate forgery with check fraud, but possessing a fake ID with an intent to use it to commit forgery also violates the California Penal Code. You will want to discuss any questions you have regarding the law with a forgery attorney. The term “forgery” is a broad term and can encompass different types of charges and punishments.
Types of California Forgery
Forging someone’s name
Forging a signature is what people usually think of when they hear the word “forgery.” This isn’t automatically considered an illegal offense. If a person has given authority to another person to sign their name to a document, then it is not considered forgery. However, if there is no authorization given and fraudulent intent is apparent, a person can be found guilty of forgery.
Altering or falsifying a legal document
If you alter a document, such as a will, contract, court document or property record with the intent to defraud someone else, this is forgery and is illegal. There are several types of documents that can fall under a forgery charge if falsified, including contracts, leases, money orders and even lottery tickets. California’s penal code is specific as to what constitutes forgery and which documents hold legal merit to be considered in this type of charge.
Penalties for a California Forgery
Forgery is a “wobbler” offense in California, which means it can either be charged as a misdemeanor or felony.
Depending on the details surrounding the case, the prosecutor will determine how it will be charged. A defendant can face up to a year in jail in addition to court fines and may be required to pay back the victim if convicted of a fraud misdemeanor. A person convicted of a felony faces a sentence up to three years, as well as fines and restitution to the victim.
A defendant’s criminal history is also taken into consideration when determining the charge, which makes having an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side even more important.
Defenses to a California Forgery
If you’ve been charged with forgery in California, what can be done? The main focus of any forgery case is that there has to be proven intent to defraud another person or entity. If it can be proven that there was no intent to commit fraud, then a defendant cannot be found guilty of forgery.
Another defense is showing that the document that was allegedly forged did not deprive another person of their legal rights. Or, if you believe you’ve been wrongly accused, you will want to communicate this to your attorney. Whatever the details of your case, it’s important that you receive legal counsel so you’re aware of your rights and what the next steps should be.
Contact The Law Offices of Stephen G. Cline today for your free consultation. With over two decades of experience and an aggressive approach to legal defense, you will have an attorney ready to fight on your behalf.
What is required to prove forgery?
In order to prove forgery has occurred, the prosecutor must produce evidence that:
- A document was falsified or altered
- There was intent to commit fraud
- This action infringed upon another person’s legal rights
A defendant has to be guilty of all three of these things before being convicted of forgery.
What types of documents are subject to forgery laws?
In California, there are over 40 documents that carry the kind of legal significance subject to forgery laws. These include, but aren’t limited to, court records, currency, property documents, such as deeds or wills, and identification cards.
Can a forgery defense attorney reduce my charges?
An attorney builds a defense based on what can be proven. If your forgery charge is being prosecuted as a felony, our forgery defense attorney will build a case to have it reduced to a misdemeanor or dismissed. If charged with a misdemeanor, he will try to have the case dismissed and kept off your record. While we are dedicated to producing the best possible results for our clients, each case is different, and outcomes are never guaranteed.
Can a forgery charge stay off my record?
It depends on what you’re charged with and the sentence you receive. In certain instances, courts will offer a diversion program. If a defendant completes the terms of the diversion within the allotted time, the conviction will not appear on your criminal record. Each court has its own conditions.