California Penal Code 470 PC prohibits forgery. Simply put, the California crime of forgery takes place when you knowingly do any of the following, intending to commit a fraud:
- Sign someone else's name,
- Fake a seal or someone else's handwriting,
- Change or falsify any legal document (like a will or a deed), or
- Fake, alter, or present as genuine a false document pertaining to money, finances, or property (like a check or a promissory note).1
When many people hear the word "forgery," they think of faking someone else's signature or handwriting. But as you can see, the legal definition of California forgery is much broader than that. It basically means creating a new, false document for your own benefit and gain.
At the same time, the legal definition of forgery is narrower than many people think. Even if you forge someone else's signature, you aren't guilty of the crime of forgery unless you did so intending to commit a fraud.2
Actions that could lead to California Penal Code 470 PC forgery charges include:
- Writing yourself a fake prescription for pain medicine, including a forged signature from a doctor;
- Swapping out a page in your father's will for a page you have drafted that leaves more money to you; and
- Endorsing a check made out to someone else without their permission.
California forgery may be a so-called white-collar crime ...but that doesn't mean that the penalties for forgery can't be harsh.
Forgery is a wobbler in California...which means that it may be charged and punished as either a misdemeanor or a felony.3 The maximum jail sentence for misdemeanor forgery is one (1) year...and for felony forgery, it's three (3) years!4
The facts involved in California forgery charges are often complicated. A good forgery defense lawyer can help you use those facts to assert legal defenses that can help you beat the charges.
Common legal defenses to California forgery charges include:
- You didn't intend to defraud anyone,
- The document that was allegedly forged could not deprive anyone else of their legal rights, and / or
- You were falsely accused.
In this article, our California criminal defense lawyers will offer a comprehensive guide to understanding California forgery law by addressing the following:
If, after reviewing this information, you have additional questions or would like more information about California forgery law, please feel free to contact us.
You may also find helpful information in our related articles on California White-Collar Crimes; California's Criminal Fraud Laws; Explanation of California Parole Law; California's Aiding and Abetting Laws; Legal Definition of a "Wobbler" in California Law; Legal Definition of a Misdemeanor in California Law; Explanation of California Probation & Probation Violation Hearings; Legal Definition of a Felony in California Law; Common Legal Defenses to California Crimes; California Credit Card Fraud; and California's Check Fraud Laws.
Although most people think of forgery as simply "signing someone else's name," the offense of forgery actually encompasses a long list of other actions.
For example, you may be charged with forgery if you do any of the following:
- Sign someone else's name without authorization,
- Counterfeit or recreate the seal or handwriting of another person without their prior approval,
- Alter, corrupt, or falsify specific legal written documents . . . such as a will or court record . . ., and/or
- Knowingly "make, alter, forge, or counterfeit, utter, [or] publish . . . "
°Any document or item relating to money, stocks, a sale, transfer, or exchange of goods or property,
°Any written document relating to how someone intends to dispose of his/her property upon death,
°A legal document other than a will or court record (a power of attorney, for example), or
°A notarized document.5
Just to clarify, the words "utter" and "publish" mean the same thing. They mean to try to pass off an altered or fake document as a genuine one.6
In many cases, a forgery might involve more than one of the actions listed above . . . for example, forging someone's handwriting on an important document and then trying to pass it off ("utter" it) as genuine.
How the specific act is categorized isn't very important, so long as it qualifies as forgery under California Penal Code 470 PC. In fact, the jury doesn't even need to unanimously agree on how you committed forgery . . . only that you did do so through one or more of the actions listed above.7
Example: Darrell makes a deal with Connie to buy a boat from her. He writes her a check for the purchase price. But Darrell knows that his checking account doesn't contain enough money to cover the check.
When the check doesn't go through, Connie calls the police. They visit Darrell on the boat, and he presents them with a purchase agreement saying that he has successfully bought the boat from Connie...with Connie's signature on it. But it turns out that Darrell prepared that document on his own and added Connie's signature himself.
Darrell is guilty of forgery on two bases:
- First, he prepared the false purchase agreement with Connie's signature.
- Second, he then "uttered" the false document...that is, attempted to pass it off as genuine.8
But, as we will discuss in Section 2, it is not enough simply to perform one of the actions described above. To be guilty of the crime of California forgery, you also need to intend to commit fraud.9
Here are some examples and further discussion illustrating what the various types of forgery in California are.
This form of forgery is what most people think of when they hear the word.
To commit forgery by signature, you need to
- Sign a name that is not your own (either someone else's name or a fake name) on a legal or financial document,
- Sign that name without authority to do so, and
- Know that you did not have authority to sign that name.10
Example: Bill comes across a check made out to his roommate Suzie. He takes the check and endorses it with Suzie's signature without asking her first. Bill intends to try to cash the check and get the money for himself. By signing Suzie's name knowingly without her authorization, Bill has committed forgery.
Example: Let's say Suzie is traveling overseas for work. She receives a large check in the mail. Suzie asks her roommate Bill to endorse the check with her signature and take it to her bank to deposit it for her in her account. If Bill does so, he is not guilty of forgery...because Suzie gave him authority to sign her name.
You are guilty of California forgery when you counterfeit or forge someone else's handwriting or seal on a document, intending to commit a fraud.11
This kind of forgery can apply to any kind of document, including documents that are not specifically listed in Penal Code 470 PC. However, it must be a document that can be used to perpetrate a fraud . . . which generally means a document that affects some kind of legal, financial or property right.12
Examples of forging or counterfeiting a seal or handwriting include:
- Photocopying a document containing a seal and/or handwriting...intending to fraudulently try to pass the copy off as an original,
- Creating a new document (for example, traveler's checks or a false lottery ticket) with the unauthorized use of a "copycat" seal, and
- Attempting to re-create or actually re-creating someone's handwriting without their prior approval.
Example: Jenny thinks she deserves a raise at work. But when she asks her boss Trisha for one, Trisha says no.
Imitating Trisha's handwriting, Jenny writes a letter to her company's human resources (HR) department that is supposed to be from Trisha. The letter instructs the HR department to institute a raise for Jenny.
Jenny may be guilty of forgery...she has re-created Trisha's handwriting without her approval, with the intent to defraud the company out of money.
You can also violate California's forgery laws by
- corrupting, or
some kind of legal document, if you intended to defraud someone by doing so.13
This section of Penal Code 470 PC only applies to legal documents, such as
- A will,
- A document conveying property,
- A court record, and/or
- Other kinds of legal writings that can serve as evidence in a court of law.14
Unlike the first two kinds of forgery we discussed, this kind does not need to involve the signature, handwriting, or seal of anyone else.
Example: Linda, a parole agent, becomes romantically involved with Randy, one of her parolees. After Randy violates his parole and is returned to prison, Linda forges a fake removal order that will get Randy moved to a different jail facility.
Linda is guilty of forgery...she counterfeited a legal writing that affected the rights of the state of California to keep Randy in custody at a particular place.15
This last category of forgery, described in Penal Code 470(d) PC, covers two main kinds of behavior. These are:
- Falsifying, altering, or counterfeiting a more comprehensive list of documents (most of them related to money and/or property rights),16 and
- "Publishing" or "uttering" a fake or altered document from that list...in other words, trying to pass the document off as genuine.17
There are as many as forty (40) types of documents that can be the basis for a California forgery charge under Penal Code 470(d) PC. They include:
- Traveler's checks,
- Money orders
- Promissory notes,
- Lottery tickets,
- Stock certificates,
- Real estate leases,
- Property deeds and mortgage documents,
- And many more.18
Example: Ruth is having financial difficulties and is worried she will lose her home to foreclosure. Paul convinces her that he can help her and has her sign a stack of papers, without telling her what she is signing.
It turns out that one of the documents is a California deed of trust giving Paul a mortgage on Ruth's home. Paul records the deed in the county property records.
Paul didn't fake Ruth's signature...but he did cause her to sign the deed by fraud, so the deed of trust is a forged document. Because Paul "uttered" or "published" the document by recording it in the property records, he is guilty under California law of forgery.19
Example: Milton tries to pay for goods in a store using a check that appears to be made out to him. But it turns out the check is forged.
The prosecutors don't have evidence that Milton personally faked the signature on the check. But it doesn't matter...Milton can be convicted for trying to pass the forged check off as real ("uttering" or "publishing" a forged check).20
If you help someone else commit any of the above acts, you can also be convicted of Penal Code 470 PC forgery under California's aiding and abetting laws.
Even if you didn't forge or pass a forged document yourself, aiding and abetting laws mean that you can be prosecuted under California forgery laws if you:
- Knew someone else intended to commit forgery,
- Intended to help that person commit forgery, and
- Assisted, encouraged or instigated the other person's act of forgery in any way.21
Some kinds of forgery depend on sophisticated planning or technology...and therefore are likely to involve more than one person. Because of aiding and abetting laws, even people who participate less directly in a forgery scheme can be prosecuted under California law for the crime of forgery.
The legal definition of California forgery under Penal Code 470 PC revolves around two main facts (also known as "elements" of the crime). These are the facts a prosecutor must be able to prove for you to be criminally liable for forgery charges.
The elements of forgery are
- that you engaged in one of the acts listed above, and
- that you did so with the specific intent to defraud.22
As long as the two elements described above are met, it doesn't matter whether the person/entity you intended to defraud was actually defrauded.23
Example: Victor's credit card falls out of his wallet in a public restroom. Felix finds it on the ground and takes it to a store, where he purchases large amounts of expensive clothing. Felix forges Victor's signature on the sales slip.
But the sales clerk has a bad feeling about the transaction and calls security. The guard stops Felix before he can leave the store, and Felix confesses his wrongdoing. The clothes never leave the store, and Victor's card is never charged.
BUT Felix is still guilty of forgery even though he did not cause anyone any loss...because he intended to commit fraud when he forged Victor's signature.
What is "the intent to defraud"?
What exactly does it mean to "intend to defraud"?
Simply put, you defraud someone else-commit fraud-when you deceive . . . successfully lie to . . . another person, in order to deprive them of
- Property, or
- Some kind of legal right (usually one related to money or property).24
So the deception must be aimed at depriving someone else of a legal right or interest in order to benefit you. Simply creating or altering a false document that has no legal significance won't suffice.25
Example: John is creating campaign mailers for candidates running for seats in the California legislature. He includes in these mailers a letter from President Ronald Reagan endorsing these candidates. But the letter is not actually from President Reagan...John has forged his signature and the presidential seal.
But John is not guilty of the crime of California forgery. Even though he intended to deceive voters by sending the fake letter from President Reagan...he did not intend to deprive them of money, property, or any legal right.26
California Penal Code 470 PC forgery is what is known as a "wobbler" in California law.27 This means that it may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a
felony . . . depending on
- The circumstances of the crime, and
- The defendant's criminal history.
The potential penalties for a misdemeanor California forgery conviction include:
- Up to one (1) year in county jail,28
- A fine of up to one thousand dollars ($1,000),29
- Informal (also known as summary) probation, and/or
- Payment of restitution to any victims.
And if you are charged with felony forgery, the penalties may include:
- Sixteen (16) months, two (2) years or three (3) years in prison,
- A fine of up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000),
- Informal or formal probation, and/or
- Payment of restitution to any victims.30
Bad check diversion programs
According to Newport Beach criminal defense attorney John Murray31 :
"If you face forgery charges for trying to pass a "bad" check, your county may offer an alternative sentencing option...usually known as a "bad check diversion program" or a "bad check restitution program"...that allows you to avoid criminal penalties."
For example, Los Angeles County's "bad check diversion program" allows defendants charged with passing forged checks to escape criminal prosecution...if they:
- Make full restitution to the victim, and
- Attend an 8-hour intervention class.
A number of common legal defenses may apply to a criminal forgery prosecution. Your California criminal defense lawyers will always examine your case in an effort to uncover blunders in the arrest and investigation process.
Some of the most effective legal defenses in forgery cases may include the following.
Lack of intent
As we discussed above, if you didn't have the intent to defraud someone, then you did not commit the California crime of forgery.32
Perhaps you thought you had the authority to make changes to a document or to sign another's name. Say, for example, you signed your spouse's name to a check without specific authorization to do so . . . but the money was spent on family expenses. Or maybe you misunderstood instructions from your boss and ended up signing his name to an important document without authorization...but with no intent to defraud.
In cases like this, you and your California forgery defense attorney may be able to assert the legal defenses of lack of intent to get the forgery charges dismissed or reduced.
The forged document was not fraudulent
In order for the crime of California forgery under Penal Code 470 PC to occur, the allegedly forged document must have had the capacity to deprive someone of a legal right...often one related to money or property. Simply creating or altering a false document that has no legal significance won't suffice.33
So, for example, if you
- write a fake love letter, imitating someone else's handwriting, as a practical joke,
- write an unauthorized letter of reference or solicitation, or
- write a fake letter of endorsement for a political candidate that is supposed to come from a well-known celebrity,
you are probably not guilty of California forgery...as none of these examples defraud another out of a legal, monetary, or property right.
Many Penal Code 470 PC forgery charges arise out of complex business or legal dealings. Often they occur in workplace settings. In these cases, it is not unusual for a person to be falsely accused of forgery by someone else...who may be trying to avoid "taking the fall" for his or her own mistakes.
Where this is the case, you will need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney who can investigate and sort out the complicated facts...and use these to tell a clear story to the prosecutor and jury about what actually happened.
Use of handwriting experts
Often, the process of defending against California forgery charges will involve use of handwriting experts.
When the charge alleges that a signature or other handwriting was forged, a handwriting expert is permitted to testify in court . . . either for the prosecution or for the defense. This expert may testify as to whether s/he believes that you forged the writing in question, provided that s/he
- has examined a number of samples of your writing to draw a valid conclusion, and
- qualifies as an expert.34
To qualify as an expert, it isn't necessary for the individual to work as a "handwriting expert" . . . only that s/he work in a profession (like certain kinds of law enforcement or private investigation) where s/he must frequently compare handwriting.35
It's important to remember, though, that the testimony of a handwriting expert is not by itself sufficient to sustain a forgery conviction.36 In other words, just because an expert testifies that they believe you forged someone's handwriting or signature . . . that doesn't mean the jury has to convict you.
In addition, California evidence law allows witnesses who are not handwriting experts to testify about their opinion as to whether certain handwriting belongs to a particular person. BUT this is only possible if the court decides that the witness has "personal knowledge" of that person's handwriting.37
One more thing on the subject of handwriting evidence . . . handwriting samples that are offered after charges have been filed will not be admissible as evidence in a California forgery trial . . . nor may they be the basis of an expert's opinion.38 When you think about it, this makes sense...as a person could easily try to disguise their handwriting to get the result they want in a criminal case.
Stated in Penal Code 484f PC California credit card fraud & debit card fraud laws make it illegal to
- Alter an existing credit card (say, by changing the cardholder name) with intent to defraud,
- Design or makes a counterfeit credit card with intent to defraud, or
- Forge the signature of someone else or of a fictional person on a credit card payment slip, with intent to defraud.39
This form of California credit card fraud is prosecuted as a kind of California forgery.40 In other words, it is also a wobbler . . . and can also lead to either
- one (1) year in county jail, or
- sixteen (16) months, two (2) years or three (3) years in jail.41
Stated in Penal Code 476 PC, California's check fraud laws make it a crime to
- make, pass, or possess (or attempt to make or pass)
- a fake or altered check,
- knowing that it was fake or altered, and
- intending to defraud someone else by
- representing that the check was genuine.42
A number of the scenarios for California forgery charges that we presented above would also meet this definition of check fraud. And, in fact, just like Penal Code 484f PC credit card fraud . . . check fraud is prosecuted as a form of California forgery...with the same wobbler penalties.
Found in Penal Code 476a PC, California's "bad checks" law makes it a crime to write or pass a check, knowing it will not clear the bank, with an intent to defraud the recipient. Since this involves falsifying a legal document (the check) in order to defraud someone and deprive the payee of a financial right, it could be prosecuted under bad checks law and under forgery law.
Call Us for Help...
If you would like more information about California forgery law, or you would like to discuss your case confidentially with one of our California criminal defense attorneys, please don't hesitate to contact us at Shouse Law Group.
We have local criminal law offices in Los Angeles, Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Ventura, San Jose, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities to conveniently serve you.
For information about Nevada forgery laws, you may visit our page on Nevada forgery laws.
1 California Penal Code 470 PC - Forgery; Signatures or Seals; Corruption of Records. ("(a) 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 to any of the items listed in subdivision (d) is guilty of forgery. (b) Every person who, with the intent to defraud, counterfeits or forges the seal or handwriting of another is guilty of forgery. (c) Every person who, with the intent to defraud, alters, corrupts, or falsifies any record of any will, codicil, conveyance, or other instrument, 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 guilty of forgery. (d) Every person who, with the intent to defraud, falsely makes, alters, forges, or counterfeits, utters, publishes, passes or attempts or 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: any check, bond, bank bill, or note, cashier's check, traveler's check, money order, post note, draft, any controller's warrant for the payment of money at the treasury, county order or warrant, or request for the payment of money, receipt for money or goods, bill of exchange, promissory note, order, or any assignment of any bond, writing obligatory, or other contract for money or other property, contract, due bill for payment of money or property, receipt for money or property, passage ticket, lottery ticket or share purporting to be issued under the California State Lottery Act of 1984, trading stamp, power of attorney, certificate of ownership or other document evidencing ownership of a vehicle or undocumented vessel, or any certificate of any share, right, or interest in the stock of any corporation or association, or the delivery of goods or chattels of any kind, or for the delivery of any instrument of writing, or acquittance, release or discharge of any debt, account, suit, action, demand, or any other thing, real or personal, or any transfer or assurance of money, certificate of shares of stock, goods, chattels, or other property whatever, or any letter of attorney, or other power to receive money, or to receive or transfer certificates of shares of stock or annuities, or to let, lease, dispose of, alien, or convey any goods, chattels, lands, or tenements, or other estate, real or personal, or falsifies the acknowledgment of any notary public, or any notary public who issues an acknowledgment knowing it to be false; or any matter described in subdivision (b)."
2 Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions ("CALCRIM") 1900 - Forgery by False Signature. ("To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the People must prove that: 1 The defendant signed (someone else's name/ [or] a false name) to [a/an] <insert type[s] of document[s] from Pen. Code, § 470(d)>; 2 The defendant did not have authority to sign that name; 3 The defendant knew that (he/she) did not have that authority; AND 4 When the defendant signed the document, (he/she) intended to defraud.")
3California Penal Code 473 PC - Forgery; punishment. ("Forgery is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, or by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.")
4 See same, Forgery; punishment. See also Penal Code 1170(h) PC. ("(h)(1) Except as provided in paragraph (3), a felony punishable pursuant to this subdivision where the term is not specified in the underlying offense shall be punishable by a term of imprisonment in a county jail for 16 months, or two or three years.")
5 California Penal Code 470 PC - Forgery, endnote 1, above.
6 CALCRIM 1905 - Forgery by Passing or Attempting to Use Forged Document. ("A person (passes[,]/ [or] uses[,]/ [or] (attempts/ [or] offers) to use) a document if he or she represents to someone that the document is genuine. The representation may be made by words or conduct and may be either direct or indirect.")
7 People v. Sutherland, (1993) 17 Cal.App.4th 602, 618. ("First, we find that under the forgery statute, forging and uttering are different legal theories under which a jury may find the defendant guilty of the generic statutory offense of forgery. Thus, no jury unanimity is required as to whether the defendant's conduct falls into either or both categories; in any case, the jury is unanimous that by one means or another, the defendant has committed a single forgery.")
8 Loosely based on People v. Pugh, (2002) 104 Cal.App.4th 66.
See also CALCRIM 1906 - Forging and Passing or Attempting to Pass: Two Theories in One Count. ("The defendant is being prosecuted for forgery under two theories: (1) that the defendant forged the document; and (2) that the defendant (passed[,]/ used[,]/ [or] (attempted/ [or] offered) to use) the forged document.")
9 See, e.g., CALCRIM 1900 - Forgery by False Signature, endnote 2, above.
10 See same, Forgery by False Signature. ("1 The defendant signed (someone else's name/ [or] a false name) to [a/an] <insert type[s] of document[s] from Pen. Code, § 470(d)>; 2 The defendant did not have authority to sign that name; 3 The defendant knew that (he/she) did not have that authority; . . . .")
11 CALCRIM 1902 - Forgery by Handwriting or Seal. ("To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the People must prove that: 1 The defendant forged [or counterfeited] the (handwriting/seal) of another person on <insert type[s] of document[s] that could defraud; see discussion in Related Issues>; AND 2 When the defendant did that act, (he/she) intended to defraud.")
12 See same, Forgery by Handwriting or Seal: Related Issues. ("A document not specifically listed in Penal Code section 470(d) may still come within the scope of the statute if the defendant "forges the ... handwriting of another." (Pen. Code, 470(b).) However, not all writings are included within the scope of this provision. (Lewis v. Superior Court (1990) 217 Cal.App.3d 379, 398-399 [265 Cal.Rptr. 855] [campaign letter with false signature of President Reagan could not be basis of forgery charge].) "[A] writing not within those listed may fall under the part of section 470 covering a person who 'counterfeits or forges the ... handwriting of another' if, on its face, the writing could possibly defraud anyone. [Citations.] The false writing must be something which will have the effect of defrauding one who acts upon it as genuine." (People v. Gaul-Alexander (1995) 32 Cal.App.4th 735, 741-742 [38 Cal.Rptr.2d 176].) The document must affect an identifiable legal, monetary, or property right. (Id. at p. 743; see also Lewis v. Superior Court, supra, 217 Cal.App.3d at pp. 398-399.)")
13 CALCRIM 1903 - Forgery by Altering or Falsifying Will or Other Legal Document. ("To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the People must prove that: 1 The defendant (altered[,]/ corrupted[,]/ [or] falsified) a document; 2 That document was [a record of] (a/an) (will[,]/ codicil[,]/ conveyance[,]/ [or] court judgment[,]/ [or] officer's return to a court's process/ [or other] legal writing that the law accepts as evidence); AND 3 When the defendant (altered[,]/ [or] corrupted[,]/ [or] falsified) the document, (he/she) intended to defraud.")
14 See same, Forgery by Altering or Falsifying Will or Other Legal Document.
15 Based on People v. Gaul-Alexander, (1995) 32 Cal.App.4th 735.
16 CALCRIM 1904 - Forgery by Falsifying, Altering, or Counterfeiting Document. ("To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the People must prove that: 1 The defendant (falsely made[,]/ [or] altered[,]/ [or] forged[,]/ [or] counterfeited) (a/an) <insert type[s] of document[s] from Pen. Code, § 470(d)>; AND 2 When the defendant did that act, (he/she) intended to defraud.")
17 CALCRIM 1905 - Forgery by Passing or Attempting to Use Forged Document. ("To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the People must prove that: 1 The defendant (passed[,]/ [or] used[,]/ [or] (attempted/ [or] offered) to use) [a/an] (false[,]/ [or] altered[,]/ [or] forged[,]/ [or] counterfeited) <insert type[s] of document[s] from Pen. Code, § 470(d)>; 2 The defendant knew that the <insert type[s] of document[s] from Pen. Code, § 470(d)> (was/were) (false[,]/ altered[,]/ [or] forged[,]/ [or] counterfeited); AND 3 When the defendant (passed[,]/ [or] used[,]/ [or] (attempted/ [or] offered) to use) the <insert type[s] of document[s] from Pen. Code, § 470(d)>, (he/she) intended that (it/they) be accepted as genuine and (he/she) intended to defraud.")
18 California Penal Code 470(d) PC - Forgery. ("(d) Every person who, with the intent to defraud, falsely makes, alters, forges, or counterfeits, utters, publishes, passes or attempts or 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: any check, bond, bank bill, or note, cashier's check, traveler's check, money order, post note, draft, any controller's warrant for the payment of money at the treasury, county order or warrant, or request for the payment of money, receipt for money or goods, bill of exchange, promissory note, order, or any assignment of any bond, writing obligatory, or other contract for money or other property, contract, due bill for payment of money or property, receipt for money or property, passage ticket, lottery ticket or share purporting to be issued under the California State Lottery Act of 1984, trading stamp, power of attorney, certificate of ownership or other document evidencing ownership of a vehicle or undocumented vessel, or any certificate of any share, right, or interest in the stock of any corporation or association, or the delivery of goods or chattels of any kind, or for the delivery of any instrument of writing, or acquittance, release or discharge of any debt, account, suit, action, demand, or any other thing, real or personal, or any transfer or assurance of money, certificate of shares of stock, goods, chattels, or other property whatever, or any letter of attorney, or other power to receive money, or to receive or transfer certificates of shares of stock or annuities, or to let, lease, dispose of, alien, or convey any goods, chattels, lands, or tenements, or other estate, real or personal, or falsifies the acknowledgment of any notary public, or any notary public who issues an acknowledgment knowing it to be false; or any matter described in subdivision (b).")
19 Based on People v. Martinez, (2008) 161 Cal.App.4th 754.
20 Based on People v. Effman, (1963) 212 Cal.App.2d 414.
21 California Jury Instructions - Criminal ("CALJIC") 3.01 - Aiding and Abetting Defined. ("A person aids and abets the [commission] [or] [attempted commission] of a crime [including forgery] when he or she: (1) With knowledge of the unlawful purpose of the perpetrator, and (2) With the intent or purpose of committing or encouraging or facilitating the commission of the crime, and (3) By act or advice, [or, by failing to act in a situation where a person has a legal duty to act,] aids, promotes, encourages or instigates the commission of the crime.")
22 See, e.g., CALCRIM 1900, Forgery by False Signature.
23 People v. Neder, (2d Dist.1971) 16 Cal.App.3d 846 ("The real essence of the crime of forgery, however, is not concerned with the end, i.e., what is obtained or taken by the forgery; it has to do with the means, i.e., the act of signing the name of another with intent to defraud and without authority, or of falsely making a document, or of uttering the document with intent to defraud.")
24 CALCRIM 1900, Forgery by False Signature. ("Someone intends to defraud if he or she intends to deceive another person either to cause a loss of (money[,]/ [or] goods[,]/ [or] services[,]/ [or] something [else] of value), or to cause damage to, a legal, financial, or property right.")
25 Lewis v. Superior Court, (1990) 217 Cal. App.3d 379, 383-84. ("Unless the consequential harm of the fabrication is a loss, damage, or prejudice of a legal right, generally a pecuniary or property right, there is no harm of the kind to which the statute is directed and hence no forgery. The attempted persuasion of another to vote does not implicate such a right.")
26 Based on the facts of the same.
27 California Penal Code 473 PC - Forgery; punishment. ("Forgery is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, or by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.")
28 See same, Forgery; punishment.
29 California Penal Code 19 PC -- Punishment for misdemeanor [including misdemeanor forgery]; punishment not otherwise prescribed. ("Except in cases where a different punishment is prescribed by any law of this state, every offense declared to be a misdemeanor [including misdemeanor forgery] is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or by fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both.")
30 California Penal Code 473 PC - Forgery; punishment. See also California Penal Code 1170(h) PC. ("(h)(1) Except as provided in paragraph (3), a felony punishable pursuant to this subdivision where the term is not specified in the underlying offense shall be punishable by a term of imprisonment in a county jail for 16 months, or two or three years.")
32 See, e.g., CALCRIM 1900, Forgery by False Signature.
33 Lewis v. Superior Court, (1990) 217 Cal. App.3d 379, 383-84. ("Unless the consequential harm of the fabrication is a loss, damage, or prejudice of a legal right, generally a pecuniary or property right, there is no harm of the kind to which the statute is directed and hence no forgery. The attempted persuasion of another to vote does not implicate such a right.")
34 Neall v. United States, (1902) 118 F. 699, 707. ("This testimony was received under the objection that the witness was not shown to be qualified or sufficiently acquainted with the handwriting of the plaintiff in error to testify as an expert [in a forgery case]. We cannot say that the court erred in admitting the testimony. It was shown that the witness has a qualified expert, and he testified that the examination which he had made was sufficient to qualify him to testify as he did, and that the reason why he asked for no more specimens of handwriting was that he did not consider it necessary.")
35 People v. Daniels, (1948) 85 Cal.App.2d 182, 190-91. ("In order to qualify as an expert on handwriting [in a forgery trial], it is not necessary that the witness follow the profession of handwriting expert - it is only necessary that in the particular calling he does follow he is called upon to make frequent comparisons of handwriting.")
36 People v. Mitchell, (1891) 92 Cal. 590, 593.
37 California Evidence Code 1416 EC - Proof of handwriting by person familiar therewith. ("A witness who is not otherwise qualified to testify as an expert may state his opinion whether a writing is in the handwriting of a supposed writer [in a forgery case] if the court finds that he has personal knowledge of the handwriting of the supposed writer. Such personal knowledge may be acquired from: (a) Having seen the supposed writer write; (b) Having seen a writing purporting to be in the handwriting of the supposed writer and upon which the supposed writer has acted or been charged; (c) Having received letters in the due course of mail purporting to be from the supposed writer in response to letters duly addressed and mailed by him to the supposed writer; or (d) Any other means of obtaining personal knowledge of the handwriting of the supposed writer.")
38 People v. Sauer, (1958) 163 Cal.App.2d 740, 746. ("We think that it was error to permit the handwriting expert to use the post litem motam signatures of Warner and Copeland as a basis of comparison [in a forgery trial] . . . .")
39 California Penal Code 484f - Forgery; access cards; design, alteration, or use. ("(a) Every person who, with the intent to defraud, designs, makes, alters, or embosses a counterfeit access card or utters or otherwise attempts to use a counterfeit access card is guilty of forgery. (b) A person other than the cardholder or a person authorized by him or her who, with the intent to defraud, signs the name of another or of a fictitious person to an access card, sales slip, sales draft, or instrument for the payment of money which evidences an access card transaction, is guilty of forgery.")
40 See same, Forgery; access cards; design, alteration, or use.
41 California Penal Code 473 PC - Forgery; punishment. ("Forgery is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, or by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.")
42 California Penal Code 476 PC - Forgery; fictitious or altered bills, notes, or checks. ("Every person who makes, passes, utters, or publishes, with intent to defraud any other person, or who, with the like intent, attempts to pass, utter, or publish, or who has in his or her possession, with like intent to utter, pass, or publish, any fictitious or altered bill, note, or check, purporting to be the bill, note, or check, or other instrument in writing for the payment of money or property of any real or fictitious financial institution as defined in Section 186.9 is guilty of forgery.")