Penal Code 134 PC – California’s Laws on Preparing False Evidence

Updated May

Penal Code 134 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to prepare false evidence with the intent to use it fraudulently in a legal proceeding. A conviction is a felony that carries a penalty of up to 3 years in jail or state prison. 

This is considered to be an obstruction of justice crime in California.

The language of 134 PC states that “every person guilty of preparing any false or ante-dated book, paper, record, instrument in writing, or other matter or thing, with intent to produce it, or allow it to be produced for any fraudulent or deceitful purpose, as genuine or true, upon any trial, proceeding, or inquiry whatever, authorized by law, is guilty of felony.”

Examples

  • making a false receipt with the idea to introduce it at a personal injury trial.
  • creating an inaccurate picture of an intersection to give to police investigating a hit and run case.
  • altering a will with the intent to use it in probate court.

Defenses

An accused can beat a preparing false evidence charge with a legal defense. Common defenses include:

  • no intent to produce,
  • no intent to deceive, and/or
  • entrapment.

Penalties

A violation of this statute is charged as a felony. This is opposed to a misdemeanor or an infraction.

The crime is punishable by:

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

hands with gloves on using a pen to mark a sealed evidence bag as an example of what could be a Penal Code 134 PC violation
PC 134 makes it a crime to prepare false evidence for use a legal proceeding.

1. When is preparing false evidence a crime?

A prosecutor must prove the following to convict a defendant of Penal Code 134:

  1. the defendant prepared a false or forged "matter or thing,"
  2. he did so with the intent to produce it as evidence in a legal proceeding, and
  3. the accused did so with the intent to deceive.1

Note that this statute lists some examples of evidence that a defendant could falsify. These are:

“any false or ante-dated book, paper, record, instrument in writing, or other matter or thing.”2

By including the wording, “matter or thing,” the law makes it a crime for someone to:

  • prepare any kind,
  • of false evidence.

A “matter or thing” could include such evidence as:

  • photos,
  • weapons,
  • maps, and
  • clothing items.

Note that a legal proceeding includes:

  • civil and criminal trials,
  • hearings,
  • inquiries, and
  • investigations.

Questions often arise under this statute on the meaning of:

  1. intent to produce, and
  2. intent to deceive.

1.1. Intent to produce

A defendant is only guilty under this statute if he:

  1. prepares false evidence, and
  2. does so with the intent to produce it in a legal proceeding.3

Note that it is not necessary for the evidence actually to be produced.

This means someone can be accused of this crime if the evidence was:

  • never used in a legal matter, or
  • was introduced into court but by someone else.

Example: Scott is in a nasty divorce with his wife. As their trial nears, Scott alters several emails to show that his wife is an alcoholic and should not get custody of their son. He wants to use them as evidence during the court proceeding. The spouses end of settling their case two days before the trial.

Here, Scott is guilty of preparing false evidence because he altered emails. While the emails were never introduced into evidence, Scott intended to produce them during trial.

1.2. Intent to deceive

A defendant is only guilty under PC 134 if:

  • he intended to produce false evidence,
  • for a fraudulent or deceitful purpose.4

“For a fraudulent purpose” means that an accused must have acted:

  • with the intent to deceive, or fool, someone
  • with the false evidence.5

Example: Mary is the plaintiff in a personal injury case. She completes a document (late one night) that shows the total amount of money she has spent on rehabbing her injury. Unbeknownst to her, Mary makes several calculation errors because she is tired and careless. Mary brings the document to court the next morning intending to give it to the judge.

Here, Mary is not guilty of preparing false evidence. The document is technically false because it includes erroneous figures and rehab charges. But Mary did not have an intent to deceive in making her document. She merely “falsified” the document out of carelessness and mistake.

attorney signing document
Fortunately, there are legal defenses...

2. Are there legal defenses to Penal Code 134?

A defendant can challenge an accusation under this statute with a legal defense.

Three common defenses are:

  1. no intent to produce,
  2. no intent to deceive, and/or
  3. entrapment.

2.1. No intent to produce

Recall that a person is only guilty under this statute if he:

  1. prepares false evidence, and
  2. does so with the intent to produce it in a legal proceeding.

This means it is a defense for an accused to say that he did not act with this requisite intent.

2.2. No intent to deceive

A defendant is only guilty under Penal Code 134 if he:

  • prepared false evidence, and
  • did so with the intent to deceive or fool someone else.

Therefore, it is a valid defense for a defendant to say that he did not act with this intent. Perhaps, for example, a piece of evidence was falsified by mistake or accident.

2.3. Entrapment

Police cannot lure suspects into committing a crime. This “luring” is known as entrapment. It applies to overbearing official conduct like pressure, harassment, fraud, or threats. Entrapment is an acceptable legal defense provided that the accused shows he only committed the crime because of the entrapment.

3. What are the penalties?

A violation of these laws is charged as a felony.

The crime is punishable by:

  • custody in state prison for up to three years, or
  • felony (or formal) probation.6

4. Are there immigration consequences?

A preparing false evidence conviction will have negative immigration consequences.

A California court has ruled that an offense involving false evidence is a crime involving moral turpitude.7

Crimes involving moral turpitude” can result in a non-citizen being either:

This means an offense under PC 134 will have detrimental immigration results.

5. Can a person get a conviction expunged?

A person might be able to get a conviction expunged.

Defendants cannot get an expungement for a crime if they get sentenced to state prison.8 This means a defendant will not be able to get an expungement:

  • for a preparing false evidence offense
  • if they get a prison sentence.

But they might be able to get an expungement if they get awarded felony probation in lieu of prison time.

6. Does a conviction affect gun rights?

A defendant will lose his gun rights if he gets convicted under this statute.

A convicted felon is prohibited from buying or owning a gun under California law.

Since preparing false evidence is a felony, a conviction of this crime will result in a loss of gun rights.

7. Are there related offenses?

There are three crimes related to preparing false evidence. These are:

  1. offering false evidence – PC 132,
  2. perjury – PC 118, and
  3. destroying or concealing evidence – PC 135.

7.1. Offering false evidence – PC 132

Penal Code 132 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to offer false written evidence in a legal proceeding.

This is a much narrower law than Penal Code 134 and it only applies to written evidence.

7.2. Perjury – PC 118

Per Penal Code 118 PC, perjury is the California crime of deliberately giving false information while under oath.

Unlike PC 134, this law applies to actual testimony given in a legal proceeding.

7.3. Destroying or concealing false evidence – PC 135

Penal Code 135 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to:

  • willfully destroy or hide any evidence,
  • in a legal proceeding.

“Legal proceeding” here has the same meaning as used with preparing false evidence.

For additional help...

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Legal References:

  1. California Penal Code 134 PC.

  2. See same.

  3. See same. See also People v. Brown (1887) 74 Cal. 306; and, People v. Horowitz (1945) 70 Cal. App. 2d 675.

  4. California Penal Code 134 PC.

  5. See People v. Brown, supra; and People v. Horowitz, supra.

  6. California Penal Code 132 PC. See also California Penal Code 1170h.

  7. In re Jones (1971), 5 Cal. 3d 390.

  8. California Penal Code 1203.4 PC.

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