Forgery | PC 470

LAWSTACHEUnder California PC 470, 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 below is guilty of forgery.

Virtually any paper that transfers money or property is covered under the penal code. A protected item may include a 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.

Elements of the Crime

In order to be convicted under PC 470, the prosecution needs to prove that the defendant

  • committed the act of forgery, with
  • intent to defraud. 


Intent. The prosecutor needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt defendant’s intent to defraud. If the defendant did not have that specific intent at the time of committing the psychical act, then he/she cannot be convicted of forgery. 

Legal Significance. As previously mentioned all of the documents covered by the penal code deal with transfer of money or property. This means that the legislative intent behind the statute was to protect people from losing monetary or legal rights due to forgery. If the defendant signed or altered a document that does not have a legal or monetary significance, then he/she should not be convicted of forgery. 

Agency. A defendant may be facing forgery charges related to his conduct in the performance of his work related duties. Prosecutors often do not know the intricate details of organizational details. An employee might actually have a legal right to sign checks on behalf of his/her employer. There are three types of authorities: express, implied, and apparent. An express authority is a written or oral outward manifestation of a grant/permission. Implied authority is one that a reasonable person would believe that he/she has from necessity, custom, or prior acquiescence. 


Forgery is considered a “wobbler” in California, meaning that it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. The prosecutor has discretion on whether to charge a defendant with misdemeanor or a felony. A felony convicted is punished with up to three years in jail, $10000 fine, and restitution payment to the victim. A misdemeanor conviction is punished with one year jail sentence, $1000 fine, and restitution to the victim. 

If you have been charged with forgery under PC 470, please call 619-357-6677 for a consultation. 

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