What Is the Law on Forgery in California and What Are the Punishments for It?
Forgery is a crime that can have serious ramifications. It is a crime that can involve many forms, from forging simple things such as identification cards, licenses, contracts, to more serious forms like counterfeiting or forging priceless artworks and selling them as originals. It is formally defined as making, altering, using, or possessing material with an intent to defraud someone.
In most jurisdictions, the crime of forgery must be accompanied by an intent to defraud someone. For example, if an artist is imitating artworks of a famous artist like Van Gogh, then he is not committing a crime of forgery. However, if he tries to sell the replicated paintings as originals rather than copies, then he is committing a crime of forgery. Therefore, the intention is also vital when it comes to an Act of Forgery.
One of the forms of forgery may also be the production of duplicate products and selling them under the brand name which the criminal is attempting to duplicate. This may also have serious health concerns if the duplicate product is one that has to be consumed internally. In such a case, it may endanger the health of the consumer. It is for this reason that companies now go over and above to ensure that original products reach consumers by printing an identification number on the packaging.
Yet another form of forgery may take the form of identity theft. In today's world, with the large repositories of personal data of individuals stored online, there is a higher risk of a data breach. Bank details that are compromised can be a very tricky situation, and recovering money that has been lost becomes all the more difficult.
Most states in the United States have their own laws regarding forgery. Forgery is something that can be probed at the federal level as well. Forgery assumes a federal character when it is committed across states and when interstate commerce is used. It may also occur if the document is designed to defraud the federal government. Certain types of forgery are considered felonies at the federal level, such as identity theft.
Forgery in California: Laws and Its Punishments
In the State of California, 470 penal code of California Law prohibits forgery. According to this statute, a person is supposed to have committed forgery with an intent to defraud when; a signature is duplicated, fake a seal or someone's handwriting, fake a legal contract/document such as a will or a deed, falsify, alter or use a legal instrument relating to property, money or finances.
Forgery in California is known as Wobbler, which means that the suspect may be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. This depends upon the magnitude and the nature of the crime and upon the criminal history of the suspect. According to recent revisions, however, a person can only be charged with a misdemeanor if all of the following are true;
- That the forged document must be a check, bond, bank bill, note, cashier's check, traveler's note, or money order.
- The value of the forged document should not be more than $950.
- That the suspect has not been charged with identity theft.
However, if the suspect has been charged with more serious crimes like murder, kidnapping, rape or any other then forgery becomes a Wobbler in the sense that he may be charged with a Felony. In the case of a Misdemeanor, the convict may be charged with not more than 1 year in county jail and a fine of $1,000. If the convict is charged with a felony then he may be sentenced up to 3 years in county jail and a fine of $10,000.