Penal Code 527 PC - Publishing and Selling Documents Resembling Court Orders

Penal Code 527 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to do any of the following with a fake court order:

  • sell,
  • offer for sale,
  • print,
  • publish, or
  • distribute.

In particular, the statute states:

“Any person who shall sell or offer for sale, print, publish, or distribute any paper, document or written, typed or printed form, designed or calculated by its writing, typing or printing, or the arrangement thereof, to cause or lead any person to believe it to be, or that it will be used as an order or other process of a court when in fact such paper, document or written, typed or printed form is not to be used as the order or process of a court, is guilty of a misdemeanor…”

Examples of illegal acts under this code section are:

  • Ann sells a fake court order to her friend.
  • Dez makes several fake court documents and gives them to his friends and family.
  • Mariana “dummies” up a court paper on her computer and prints it out for use.

Defenses

Luckily, there are several legal defenses that a defendant can raise if accused. These include showing that:

  • a defendant merely possessed a fake court order,
  • there was no fake court order, and/or
  • the defendant acted under duress.

Penalties

A violation of this statute is charged as a misdemeanor (as opposed to an infraction or a California felony). The crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for up to six months, and/or
  • a fine of up to $1,000.

Note that in lieu of jail time, a judge may award a defendant with misdemeanor (or summary) probation.

Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:

a person stamping a document
Penal Code 527 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to publish or sell a fake court order

1. What is the legal definition of publishing or selling a fake court order?

Penal Code 527 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to do any of the following with a fake court order:

  • sell,
  • offer for sale,
  • print,
  • publish, or
  • distribute.1

A “fake court order” is a false document that either:

  1. claims to be an official court document, or
  2. is designed to convince a person that it is an official court document.2

2. Are there legal defenses to the charge?

A person can defend against accusation by raising a legal defense. A good defense may work to reduce or even dismiss a charge.

Three common defenses include:

  1. possession of fake court order
  2. no fake court order, and/or
  3. duress.

2.1. Possession of fake court order

Please recall that PC 527 makes it a crime for a person to do the following with a fake court order:

  • sell,
  • print,
  • publish, or
  • distribute.

The statute does not mention “the possession” of a fake court order. This means that it is a good legal defense for an accused to show that he merely had a fake court order on his person, or in his possession.

2.2. No fake court order

Please also recall that a person can only be guilty of publishing a fake court order if the party actually tried to sell, print, or publish a dummy court paper or document. It is a valid legal defense, therefore, for the defendant to show that, even though he may have taken some act with a court document, it was not fake.

2.3. Duress

Duress is a legal defense in which an accused basically says: “He made me do it.” The defense applies to the very limited situation in which a person commits a crime (here, selling a fake court document), because somebody threatened to kill him if the crime was not committed.

person holding jail bars
A violation of this law can result in a fine and/or jail time

3. Penalties, punishment, and sentencing

A violation of Penal Code 527 is charged as a misdemeanor. The crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in a county jail for up to six months, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.3

Note that in lieu of jail time, a judge may award a defendant with misdemeanor (or summary) probation.

Please also note that every single sale or publication of a fake court document is charged as a separate offense under PC 527.4 And, under this statute, a judge may order that any and all fake court documents involved in a case be delivered to the clerk of the court for the documents to be destroyed.5

4. Related offenses

There are three laws related to selling or publishing a fake court order. These are:

  1. extortion of signature – PC 522,
  2. extortion by threatening letter – PC 523, and
  3. extortion by a fake court order – PC 526.

4.1. Extortion of signature – PC 522

Penal Code 522 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to commit extortion, or blackmail, by means of obtaining a signature.

A violation of Penal Code 522 is charged as a felony. The crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in a county jail for two, three, or four years, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $10,000.6

4.2. Extortion by threatening letter

Penal Code 523 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to commit extortion, or blackmail, by means of a threatening letter.

This crime is committed if:

  1. the defendant sent or delivered a threatening letter or other writing to another person;
  2. in the letter, the defendant threatened to do any of the following:

a. unlawfully injure the other person, a third party, or their property,

b. accuse the other person, or that person's relative or family member, of a crime, OR

c. expose a secret about the other person or that person's relative or family member; AND

  1. when sending or delivering the letter, the defendant intended to use this threat to obtain money, property, or an official act from the other person.7

A violation of Penal Code 522 is charged as a felony. The crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in a county jail for two, three, or four years, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $10,000.8

4.3. Extortion by a fake court order – PC 526

Penal Code 526 is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to commit extortion by means of a fake court order.

A violation of PC 526 is charged as a misdemeanor. The crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for up to six months, and/or
  • a fine of up to $1,000.9

Were you accused of publishing or selling a fake court order in California? Call us for help…

california criminal defense attorneys
Call us for help at (855) LAW-FIRM

If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime, per Penal Code 527, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. We can be reached 24/7 at 855-LawFirm.


Legal References:

  1. California Penal Code 527 PC. This code section states: “Any person who shall sell or offer for sale, print, publish, or distribute any paper, document or written, typed or printed form, designed or calculated by its writing, typing or printing, or the arrangement thereof, to cause or lead any person to believe it to be, or that it will be used as an order or other process of a court when in fact such paper, document or written, typed or printed form is not to be used as the order or process of a court, is guilty of a misdemeanor, and each separate publication, printing, distribution, sale or offer to sell any such paper, document or written, typed or printed form shall constitute a separate offense, and upon conviction thereof in addition to any other sentence imposed the court may order that all such papers or documents or written, typed or printed forms in the possession or under the control of the person found guilty of such misdemeanor shall be delivered to such court or the clerk thereof for destruction.”

  2. See same.

  3. California Penal Code 19 PC.

  4. California Penal Code 527 PC.

  5. See same.

  6. California Penal Code 520 PC.

  7. CALCRIM 1831 - Extortion by Threatening Letter

  8. California Penal Code 520 PC.

  9. California Penal Code 19 PC.

Free attorney consultations...

The attorneys at Shouse Law Group bring more than 100 years collective experience fighting for individuals. We're ready to fight for you. Call us 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at 855-LAW-FIRM for a free case evaluation.

Regain peace of mind...

Shouse Law Defense Group has multiple locations throughout California. Click Office Locations to find out which office is right for you.

Office Locations

Shouse Law Group has multiple locations all across California, Nevada, and Colorado. Click Office Locations to find out which office is right for you.

Call us 24/7 (855) 396-0370