Penal Code 470a PC is the California statute that defines the crime of forging or counterfeiting a driver’s license. People commit this offense when they alter, falsify, forge, duplicate, or counterfeit any driver’s license or identification card. A violation of this law can result in a felony charge punishable by up to three years in state prison.
The language of Penal Code 470a states:
“Every person who alters, falsifies, forges, duplicates or in any manner reproduces or counterfeits any driver’s license or identification card issued by a governmental agency with the intent that such driver’s license or identification card be used to facilitate the commission of any forgery, is [guilty of a crime].”
- changing the person’s name that appears on a driver’s license or identification card.
- creating a fake driver’s license.
- changing the physical description or altering the photograph that appears on an ID card.
People accused of this crime can challenge the accusation with a legal defense. A few common defenses include defendants showing that:
- they did not have a fraudulent intent,
- there was police misconduct, and/or
- law enforcement violated one of their constitutional rights.
While a misdemeanor crime under this statute is punishable by custody in county jail for up to one year, a felony conviction is punishable by up to three years in state prison.
Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:
- 1. How does California law define “forging or counterfeiting a driver’s license”?
- 2. Are there legal defenses?
- 3. What are the penalties?
- 4. Are there related offenses?
1. How does California law define “forging or counterfeiting a driver’s license”?
A prosecutor must prove the following to successfully convict a person under this statute:
- the defendant altered, falsified, forged, duplicated, reproduced, or counterfeited a driver’s license or government-issued ID card, and
- the accused did so with the intent that the driver’s license or identification card would be used to help commit forgery.1
Under California law, “forgery” means knowingly altering, manipulating, or creating a written document or instrument with the intent to obtain an undeserved personal gain.2
For a conviction under this code section, it is not necessary that anyone actually is defrauded or actually suffer a loss as a result of the defendant’s conduct. The key focus is rather on whether the defendant had an intent to facilitate a forgery.
2. Are there legal defenses?
Criminal defense lawyers draw upon several legal strategies to contest criminal charges under this statute. Three common ones include lawyers showing that:
- the defendant did not act with an intent to facilitate a forgery.
- there was police misconduct involved.
- law enforcement violated one of the defendant’s constitutional rights.
2.1. No intent to facilitate forgery
Recall that people are only guilty under this law if they acted with an intent to facilitate a forgery. This means it is always a defense for an accused to show that he/she did not act with this aim. Perhaps, for example, the defendant altered or forged a driver’s license to pull off a prank.
2.2. Police misconduct
It is a valid defense under this statute for accused people to show that there was some type of police misconduct involved. Maybe, for example, the police planted certain evidence on the accused. If misconduct, then a judge could exclude evidence from a case, reduce charges, or drop them altogether.
2.3. Violation of a constitutional right
Defendants in these cases can always try to challenge an allegation by showing that law enforcement officers violated one of their constitutional rights.
For example, maybe the police:
- conducted an unlawful search or seizure,
- stopped or arrested the defendant without probable cause,
- coerced a confession, or
- failed to read the defendant his/her Miranda rights.
If any of the above applies, then a judge could reduce or drop a defendant’s charges.
3. What are the penalties?
A violation of this law is a wobbler. A prosecutor can charge a wobbler as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on:
- the defendant’s criminal history/criminal record, and
- the facts of the case.
Misdemeanor charges are punishable by:
- custody in county jail for up to one year, and/or
- a maximum fine of $1,000.3
Felony charges are punishable by:
- a state prison term of up to three years, and/or
- a maximum fine of $10,000.4
4. Are there related offenses?
There are three crimes related to forging or counterfeiting a driver’s license. These are:
- forgery – PC 470,
- forgery or counterfeiting of a public seal or corporate seal – PC 472, and
- possession of counterfeit items – PC 475
4.1. Forgery – PC 470
Under Penal Code 470 PC, forgery is the crime where people falsify a signature or fraudulently alter certain documents.
“Certain documents” include:
- cashier’s checks,
- credit cards, and
- money orders.
As with violations of PC 470a, violations of this law are wobbler offenses.
4.2. Forgery or counterfeiting of a public seal or corporate seal – PC 472
Under Penal Code 472 PC, forgery or counterfeiting a public or corporate seal is the crime where people:
- forge or counterfeit a public seal or a corporate seal, and
- do so with an intent to defraud another person.
As with PC 470a, people are only guilty of breaking this law if they act with some type of fraudulent intent.
4.3. Possession of counterfeit items – PC 475
Per Penal Code 475 PC, possession of counterfeit items is the crime where people have counterfeit items on their person or within their control.
Like with charges under PC 470a, people can contest charges of breaking this law by showing that police committed some type of misconduct.
For additional help…
For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a criminal defense lawyer, we invite you to contact our law firm at the Shouse Law Group. Our attorneys provide both free consultations and legal advice you can trust.
Our lawyers also represent clients throughout California State, including those in Los Angeles, Glendale, Ontario, Orange County, Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino, and San Diego.
- California Penal Code 470a PC.
- California Penal Code 470 PC.
- California Penal Code 470a PC. See also California Penal Code 19 PC.
- California Penal Code 1170h PC.