Penal Code 473 PC sets forth the penalties for the crime of forgery in California. Forgery is generally a wobbler offense that can be prosecuted as either a felony or a misdemeanor. But if the value of the transaction is $950.00 or less, then forgery must be treated as a misdemeanor unless the defendant has prior convictions of certain serious sex- or violent crimes.
The full text of the statute reads as follows:
473. (a) 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.
(b) Notwithstanding subdivision (a), any person who is guilty of forgery relating to a check, bond, bank bill, note, cashier’s check, traveler’s check, or money order, where the value of the check, bond, bank bill, note, cashier’s check, traveler’s check, or money order does not exceed nine hundred fifty dollars ($950), shall be punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, except that such person may instead be punished pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 if that person has one or more prior convictions for an offense specified in clause (iv) of subparagraph (C) of paragraph (2) of subdivision (e) of Section 667 or for an offense requiring registration pursuant to subdivision (c) of Section 290. This subdivision shall not be applicable to any person who is convicted both of forgery and of identity theft, as defined in Section 530.5.
California Penal Code 473 PC makes the crime of forgery a wobbler, meaning that it can be prosecuted as a felony or a misdemeanor. But there is an exception.
Forging $950 or less of money must be prosecuted as a misdemeanor carrying up to 1 year in jail. But the state may prosecute this offense as a felony if the defendant was previously convicted of either:
- an offense requiring sex registration;
- a “sexually violent offense” as defined in WIC 6600(b);
- any homicide offense, including any attempted homicide offense;
- solicitation to commit murder;
- assault with a machinegun on a peace officer or firefighter;
- possession of a weapon of mass destruction; or
- any serious or violent felony offense punishable in California by life imprisonment or death.
Felonies are punishable by up to $10,000 in fines and either:
- 16 months in jail,
- 2 years in jail, or
- 3 years in jail.1
- California Penal Code 473 PC – Punishment of forgery. See also: People v. Guerrero (Cal. Apr. 30, 2020), 261 Cal. Rptr. 3d 776, 462 P.3d 514, 9 Cal. 5th 244; People v. Bloomfield (Cal. App. 1st Dist. July 20, 2017), 221 Cal. Rptr. 3d 128, 13 Cal. App. 5th 647.