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Irvine Counterfeiting Forgery Lawyer

Elements of a Crime of Counterfeit and Forgery

Anyone who intentionally passes, attempts to pass, sells, publishes, conceals, or brings into the United States any falsely made, forged, counterfeited, or altered financial instrument can be charged with counterfeiting. Most commonly, counterfeiting refers to the imitation of paper money or coins, but the crime can also involve checks, tickets for public transit, sports trading cards, and a variety of other items.

Forgery involves the making, altering, use, or possession of a false writing to commit fraud. Forgery can occur in many forms, such as signing another person's name on a check or falsifying one's own academic transcript. When forgery involves currency, it is also called counterfeiting.

So, to prove a case of forgery, a prosecutor must:

  • identify a written instrument;
  • show that the defendant made the written instrument, materially altered an existing written instrument, or falsely signed a written instrument; and
  • prove that the defendant acted with an intent to defraud.

More specifically, a core element of criminal forgery is that a person makes, alters, uses, or possesses a false writing. Keep in mind that to serve as the basis for forgery charges, the writing in question must have a legal significance and be false, where the false statement changes the fundamental meaning of the writing.

Additionally, to be punishable as forgery, the writing in question must have apparent legal significance. This includes government-issued documents like drivers' licenses and passports; transactional documents like deeds and receipts; financial instruments like currencies and stock certificates; and other documents, such as wills, patents, medical prescriptions, and works of art. Note that to have legal significance, a document must simply affect legal rights and obligations. So, while forging a physician’s signature is forgery, signing another person's name to a letter to a friend would probably not constitute forgery because, in most cases, the letter does not have legal significance.

Lastly, to be guilty of forgery, the defendant must have intended to defraud someone or some entity like a government agency. The purpose of this rule is to protect those who possess or sign fraudulent documents without knowing that the documents are false, who will not be subject to criminal liability. As a result, a common defense to forgery or counterfeiting charges is that the accused lacked intent to defraud.

How Many Years in Jail for Forgery in California?

In most states, forgery is a felony punishable by a range of penalties including jail or prison time, significant fines, probation, and restitution to the alleged victims. Some states, though, consider certain types of forgery misdemeanor offenses, punishable by a county jail term of up to 1 year.

Be aware that California state laws do permit the state to consider felony sentencing of imprisonment for 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years. In most cases, California punishes felony counterfeiting with 2-4 years’ imprisonment, and the state may also consider the defendant's criminal record and any applicable aggravating factors to determine whether they should serve the term of imprisonment in state prison instead of in county jail.

Attorney Diane C. Bass is an experienced and zealous defender who has an outstanding reputation among judges, prosecutors, and legal colleagues throughout Southern California. She is dedicated to defending her clients in trial and has a proven track record with excellent results for past clients. If you are looking for a tenacious attorney to handle your forgery or counterfeit charge in Irvine, do not hesitate to work with Attorney Bass.

Do not let a forgery or counterfeit charge put you behind bars; schedule a free consultation with the Law Office of Diane C. Bass, A Professional Law Corporation today. Contact the firm online or by phone at (949) 264-0696.

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