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Forgery Laws (PC 470(a)) in California

California Penal Code 470(a)

Legal Definition: Every person who, with the intent to defraud, knowing that he or she has no authority to do so, signs the name of another person or of a fictitious person is guilty of forgery.

For a person to be convicted of a violation of PC 470(a), the prosecution must prove the following:

1. You signed someone else’s name/a false name to a document(s);

2. You did not have authority to sign that name;

3. You knew that you did not have that authority;

4. When you signed the document, you intended to defraud.

Other subsections of Forgery:

PC 470(b) Every person who, with the intent to defraud, counterfeits or forges the seal or handwriting of another is guilty of forgery.

PC 470(c) Every person who, with the intent to defraud, alters, corrupts, or falsifies any record or any will, codicil, conveyance, or other instruments, the record of which is by law, evidence, or any record of any judgment of a court or the return of any officer to any process of any court, is a guilty forgery.

PC 470(d) Every person who, with the intent to defraud, falsely makes, alters, forges, or counterfeits, utters, publishes, passes or attempts of offers to pass, as true and genuine, any of the following items, knowing the same to be false, altered, forged, or counterfeited, is guilty of forgery.

What does this mean?

Someone intends to defraud if he or she intends to deceive another person either to cause a loss of money/goods/services/something else of value, or to cause damage to, a legal, financial, or property right. It is not necessary that anyone actually is defrauded or actually suffer a financial, legal, or property loss as a result of your acts. It is relatively obvious if you sign another person’s name, for example, that your intent is clearly to defraud, and that you were not allowed to sign that person’s name. However, there are defenses to the intent element that will be discussed later.

There are several common examples of items that are typically forged: Check, Bank Note, Money Order, Bill for Payment, Travel Ticket, Gift Certificates, Debt Release Note, Receipt, Deed, Assignment, Notary Stamp, Promissory Note, Lottery Ticket.


Forgery, under any of the subsections of PC 470 are wobbler offense, meaning it could be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. If you are convicted under PC 470 as a misdemeanor offense, you could be sentenced to County Jail for up to one year. If you are convicted of these offenses are a felony, you could be sentenced to State Prison for upwards of 16 months, 2 or 3 years. You would be required to serve 50% of that sentence in Jail or Prison. Whether you are charged with a felony or a misdemeanor charge here is based on the specific facts of your case, as well as your criminal history.

Forgery is not a strike offense under the Three Strike Law. Forgery is considered a crime of moral turpitude, which means the crime is inherently wrong and affect people more severely in other aspects of their life. All convictions under this section will have a negative impact on immigration and professional licensing and cannot affect your ability to remain in the United States, or if you are professionally licensed, to continue working in your field.

Common Defenses

  1. Statute of Limitations
  2. Insufficient Evidence
  3. Violation of your Rights
  4. Mistake of Fact

A common defense here is that you lacked the intent to defraud. If you returned or offered to return some or all of the property obtained, that conduct may show that you did not intend to defraud. Of course, this doesn’t work if you’re six months into a criminal case being filed against you, and you’ve been going to court. The idea is that if you correct the wrong early enough, it tends to show you were not actually intending to defraud the other person. However, being able to repay the amount taken, can assist in your ability to have your case reduced, though it is not an Affirmative Defense.

Call Today

Facing charges under PC 470(a), commonly associated with forgery and fraud offenses, poses significant risks, especially for those holding professional licenses or residing in the United States on a temporary visa. Beyond the immediate threat of incarceration, a conviction could result in the loss of professional credentials and, for non-citizens, potential deportation — stakes that far exceed the confines of liberty alone.

Moreover, individuals with prior theft-related offenses face an even greater risk of receiving harsher sentences, including extended periods in jail or state prison. Judges often perceive a pattern of theft as indicative of a propensity not to change or make restitution, which can complicate your legal situation further.

Why Inland Empire Criminal Defense for PC 470(a) Charges?

  • Local Expertise: Our PC 470(a) Ontario criminal defense attorney brings an invaluable local perspective, deeply familiar with the courts and legal community, ensuring a defense strategy that’s both informed and nuanced.
  • Proven Track Record: With a history of successfully defending against fraud and theft offenses, including PC 470(a), our team possesses the specialized knowledge and experience required to navigate these complex charges effectively.
  • Comprehensive Support: Understanding the critical nature of these charges, we provide around-the-clock support to address your concerns, offer guidance, and ensure you’re fully informed every step of the way.

Secure Your Future with Inland Empire Criminal Defense

The implications of a PC 470(a) charge demand an aggressive and strategic legal defense. Whether safeguarding your professional license, preventing deportation, or minimizing the risk of incarceration, the stakes are unequivocally high.

Contact Us for Immediate Assistance

Don’t let a forgery or fraud charge derail your future. Reach out to Inland Empire Criminal Defense at 909-939-7126 for a free initial consultation. Our dedicated team is ready to employ their expertise and resources to defend your rights and interests vigorously. Conveniently located in Ontario, CA, we are strategically positioned to serve clients throughout the Inland Empire.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Yes, understanding the financial pressures that can come with legal representation, our attorney offers flexible payment plans. This approach ensures that quality legal defense is accessible for all our clients in Riverside, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles Counties.

Yes, Inland Empire Criminal Defense offers free consultations. This is part of our commitment to providing accessible and transparent legal services to residents of Riverside, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles Counties.

We offer both in-person and over-the-phone consultations to accommodate your preferences and needs. Whether you’re in Riverside, San Bernardino, or Los Angeles County, we ensure that you can access our legal services in the way that suits you best.

Our office is typically closed on weekends. However, we do make exceptions for meetings by special arrangement. Our commitment is to be as accommodating as possible to meet the unique needs of our clients in Riverside, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles Counties.

Our legal services are specifically tailored to residents of Riverside, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles Counties. For cases outside these areas, we recommend consulting to find appropriate legal assistance. Our focused approach allows us to provide specialized defense catering to the unique legal landscape of these counties.

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