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What Is the Process for Someone Being Charged With Forgery?

Forgery Defense Attorney in San Luis Obispo, CA

Forgery can have catastrophic repercussions. You could spend up to a year of imprisonment if convicted of misdemeanor forgery. If you are found guilty of a felony, you could be sentenced to up to 3 years in state prison. A conviction for felony forgery could also be counted as a “strike” within the “Three Strikes Law.” of California.  A conviction for forgery may also tarnish your reputation, making it difficult to get employment or retain your current job. Those who have professional licenses are also in danger of losing them.

Do not allow such a stressful thing to happen to you. If you or a loved one is being charged with a crime such as forgery, call the 805 Law Group to learn more about your legal rights and alternatives. Many of our clients have had their felony charges dismissed or reduced as a result of the dedication and compassionate help of our forgery defense attorney who worked tirelessly on their case. Our law firm will do everything to fight for you, safeguard your rights and guarantee that you receive a fair criminal trial. Call us now for free legal counsel. 

What Is the Definition Of Forgery Under California Law?

 forgery defense attorney

Forgery is a complex offense in California that is defined as the use of, creating, changing, or possessing a forged document with the intent to commit fraud. Fraud, also known as criminal fraud, is a form of white collar crime that typically involves a plot to deceive other people for financial benefit. Forgery may be done by either making a new fake document or modifying an existing legitimate document. Forgery is considered a felony in all fifty states in the United States. 

California Penal Code 470 Explained

Penal Code 470 states that forgery can include attempting to deposit somebody else’s checks or declaring their financial information as your own; re – writing and falsifying a will, a real estate deed, a contract, or any other legal papers; or declaring to be someone else by falsifying a signature, photograph, or seal in official documents such as a license. Falsifying papers such as stocks, airline tickets, concert tickets, and even lottery tickets could also result in a forgery conviction, as could signing your own check that is more than your bank balance.

The Forgery Allegation

An allegation is nothing more than a report to a law enforcement agency that you have done a crime. The allegation could come from anybody, whether a civilian or a law enforcement officer, or from a regulatory body like the Securities Exchange Commission or the Drug Enforcement Agency.

The Investigation Prior To The Filing Of A Lawsuit

At this point, the prosecutor has considerable latitude in deciding whether or not to press charges against the offender. Meaning that the prosecutor may decide not to pursue the criminal case if he or she feels that the police haven’t presented solid evidence or ask that the police collect further evidence.

You should expect one of the three outcomes when the police agency compiles all evidence and submits your case to the District Attorney’s office during the “pre-filing” stage:

  1. Charges will be filed against you by the district attorney;
  2. The district attorney will either decide to close the investigation without filing any charges, or
  3. The prosecution will ask the police agency to conduct more investigation before referring back the case to the district attorney for case evaluation and decision.

It is because of these reasons that having an attorney-at-law who has extensive legal experience by your side is critical, either to persuade the prosecutor not to pursue filing a case against you or to consider reducing the charges. 

The criminal law attorney, for example, may be able to convince the prosecutor to file such white collar criminal activity as nothing more than a misdemeanor instead of a felony. Your lawyer might be able to persuade the prosecutor that such an infraction is more appropriate than a misdemeanor, keeping you out of prison. 

If the police have not yet turned over their material to the prosecution, your criminal attorney can provide your version of the story to the police, ensuring that the police reports accurately reflect the facts in your defense.

In the pre-filing investigation, your lawyer will protect you from police interrogation and keep you informed about your rights. Remember that any statement you provide to the police, whether or not you are in detention, may be used against you in the trial. Even if you haven’t yet been arrested or read your Miranda rights, you still have the choice to refuse to answer questions or provide a statement.

The length of time a prosecutor has to respond to a case is determined by the kind of crime and its severity. The prosecution must press charges in most misdemeanor white collar crimes within one year after the offense’s alleged occurrence. If the crime is a felony, prosecutors normally have 3 years from the date the offense was supposedly committed to filing charges.

The Arrest

A warrant of arrest may be issued to you if the prosecution chooses to press charges. An arrest is the holding of a person into custody until their case goes to criminal court. To arrest you, the police should have probable cause, which means they believe beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed a specific crime.

If you have been arrested, your lawyer might be able to persuade the prosecutor to recommend lowering your bail or releasing you on your recognizance. In other words, you will be released from detention in exchange for your promise to show up in the courthouse on the day and time set aside for your arraignment. Should your lawyer be able to persuade the judge that you do not need to make bail, you might save a small fortune that you would have spent on a bail bondsman.

The Arraignment And Bail

An arraignment is a formal hearing in which the judge informs you of the allegations against you as well as explains the constitutional rights available to you. The formal charge may be classified as: 

  1. an infraction, 
  2. a misdemeanor, or 
  3. felony.

There will be no evidence presented during the arraignment, and no witnesses will be summoned to testify. The date and time for future proceedings will be set by the criminal court.

Bail Hearing

Another instance where an expert trial attorney can help you is during the bail hearing. The attorney may be able to save you a small fortune by advocating for a bail reduction. A defendant who is being held in custody for criminal charges has the entitlement to reasonable bail. The criminal court could allow the bail hearing to take place at the arraignment, or the attorney may be required to file a formal motion and inform the prosecution of your decision to seek a bail reduction. The prosecutor will be able to challenge the reduction.

Plea Entry

You may enter a guilty, not guilty, or no contest plea at the arraignment. In this case, you will not admit guilt but will say that the prosecution meets the elements of the crime. In addition, you can seek a continuation, which means that your hearing will be postponed until a later date so that you can hire an attorney for legal representation.

What is the Punishment for Forgery?

The severity of the punishment for forgery is determined by whether the defendant was accused of a misdemeanor or felony. A misdemeanor may result in up to a year in prison. A maximum fine of $1,000.00 with misdemeanor probation may also be imposed as part of the punishment.

Punishments in California for Misdemeanor Forgery

In California, if a person commits forgery as a misdemeanor worth no more than $950, he or she will often face up to a year in county jail. This may vary depending on the circumstances, such as the criminal record of the offender or if he or she committed the crime more than once. The convicted’s intent also has a significant role in how long they will be imprisoned. For a minor forgery crime, fines can stay as high as $1000. It is critical to have a solid case with a criminal defense attorney who has expertise with forgery cases.

Punishments in California for Felony Forgery

Penalties for felonies can result in up to sixteen months of jail time. It is also possible to spend two or three years in county jail. For felony forgery, fines of up to $10,000 can be given, in addition to restitution and community service.

Get Help If You've Been Charged With A Crime Such As A Forgery

If you are facing criminal charges for forgery, seek criminal defense counsel as soon as possible. A knowledgeable attorney can help you in understanding the criminal laws in your state concerning forgery, evaluating the weight of the evidence against you, advising you on the best possible defenses and the outcome of each, with the objective of protecting your rights.

Contact our San Luis Obispo criminal defense law firm to schedule an initial consultation with a hardworking criminal lawyer who has extensive legal experience.