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Forgery Law & Defense
PC 470 Crimes

Information on the crime of forgery is found at California penal code section 470. There are several subsections under PC 470 that cover particular types of forgery crimes.


For example, forging a signature is covered under PC 470(a), whereas forgery of a check is covered under PC 470(d).


This article covers the basic laws on forgery crimes, the penalties associated with those crimes, and some of the common defenses applicable to those crimes.

Forgery Defined: To forge something simply means to make a copy of an original and hold that copy out as being an original. For example, to forge a painting means to make a copy of an original painting; thereafter, present that copied painting as the original. Forgery is common with signatures on important documents or items or with artwork.

The Punishment

PC 470 crimes may be charged as felonies or as misdemeanors depending on the value of the item forged or the amount of loss to the victim.


For example, forgery of a seal with a value over $950 is charged as a felony and forgery of a seal with a value under $950 dollars is charged as a misdemeanor (PC 470(c).

Felony Sentence: A criminal conviction for the crime of forgery that is charged as a felony, including any violation of PC 470(a), 470(b), 470(c), & 470(d), can lead to a possible jail sentence of up to 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in jail.

Special Issues with PC 470(b): Sometimes a forgery crime is not carried out for the purpose of committing financial fraud, such as possession of a forged driver's license (PC 470(b)), where the defendant is using the forged license for non-monetary gains (i.e., get into nightclubs, avoid arrest, etc.). It is important to understand that a monetary value of fraud does not need to be assigned to the crime of forgery for the crime to be complete.

Misdemeanor Sentence: A criminal conviction for the crime of forgery that is charged as a misdemeanor, including any violation of PC 470(a), 470(b), 470(c) & 470(d), can lead to a possible jail sentence of up to 1 year in the county jail.

Probation Sentence: A probation sentence is a period of supervision in lieu of actual jail. A probation sentence may granted to a defendant in PC 470 cases where the defendant has little or no criminal history and the facts of the case are not too aggressious. Usually, a probation sentence will require the defendant to complete some sort of manual labor in lieu of jail, such as work release.

Split Sentence: If the accused is convicted of forgery, and he or she is not granted a probation sentence, then the defendant will be ordered to jail; however, in some cases, the defendant's jail sentence may be split, which means that part of the jail sentence may be served out of custody on work release or house arrest. In addition, any jail sentence that is served by the defendant for a misdemeanor or felony conviction of PC 470 may be served in a local county jail (as opposed to a California state prison).

CIMT: Forgery crimes are considered crimes involving moral turpitude. A crime involving moral turpitude is a crime that involves deceit or is otherwise considered to be morally wrong. Crimes involving moral turpitude, including forgery crimes, can lead to severe consequences for a licensed professional or non U.S. citizen (in addition to the other punishments listed in this section). A person who holds a professional license, such as a doctor or dentist, can have his or her license revoke or suspended as a result of a coviction for perjury. Non U.S. citizens may be deported or denied reentry into the United States if convicted of a forgery crime.

Three Strikes Law: PC 470 crimes are not considered serious or violent crimes (as those terms are defined in the penal code); therefore, the crime of forgery is not considered to be a strike offense in Caliornia.

Bail: The scheduled bail amount for felony forgery is $5,000 in San Bernardino County. This bail amount may be lowered or raised by a judge at arraignment (first court appearance) or subsequent court hearing depending on the circumstances of the cases, the defendant's ability to pay the bail amount, the defendant's danger to the community, and other factors. In some cases, ball may not even be required to secure the defendant's out of custody status (Own Recognizance Release, or O.R.).

Additional Penalties: If found guilty of the crime of forgery, the defendant may suffer additional penalties besides jail. These penalties include denial of entry into the armed services (or discharge from the military), restraining orders, restitution, fines and fees, violation of probation or parole (if defendant was on probation or parole at the time of the offense), loss of the right to own firearms (for felony PC 470 convictions), and more.

Defense to Forgery

Common defenses to a charge of forgery include mistake of fact (did not know of document as being forged), no intent to defraud (limited to some types of forgery), statute of limitations (limited in fraud cases), insufficient evidence, duress, failure to Mirandize defendant before questioning by law enforcement, coerced confession, illegal search and seizure, insufficient evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and more. 


If you or a loved one has been charged with the crime of forgery, or any PC 470(a), 470(b), or 470(c) crime, contact our criminal defense lawyers without delay. Our criminal defense lawyers will patiently review your defense options and assist you any day of the week. Our criminal defense team has successfully handled hundreds of felony and misdemeanor criminal cases in the Inland Empire. Call today!  


Quick Legal Reference​

Crime: Forgery

Code: PC 470(a) (CalCrim No. 1900-1925)

Wobbler: Yes. PC 470(a) is a wobbler crime. This means that the crime may be charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor.


Incarceration:Felony PC 470(a) jail sentence range: 16 months, 2 or 3 years jail. Misdemeanor jail sentence up to 1 year.

Probation: Probation is allowed in felony and misdemeanor PC 470(a) cases (assuming other crimes or enhancements that bar a probation sentence are not present). Whether or not a probation sentence is offered by the District Attorney, or granted by the court, depends on several factors, including the defendant's criminal history and the facts of the case.​

Work Release or House Arrest: In some cases, a probation sentence can include actual in-custody county jail, house arrest (electronic monitoring), or work release (or some combination of these penalties); however, most in-custody jail sentence orders that are required as a terms of probation are much shorter than the maximum jail sentence.

PC 1170(h)): Yes. PC 470(a) is subject to PC 1170(h) sentencing. This means that any jail or prison sentence may be:

  • Split (half in-custody / half out-of-custody)

  • Suspended (possibly never served)

  • Served in county jail (not state prison)

Strike: PC 470(a) is not a strike offense listed in California's Three Strikes law.

Credits: 50% good conduct credits available.

CIMT: PC 470(a) is a crime involving moral turpitude, which means that an arrest or conviction could lead to the following:

  • Immigration problems

  • Professional Licensing problems

  • Impeachment on credibility


Firearms: Felony PC 470(a) convictions prohibit a defendant from owning or possessing a firearm.

Bail: $25,000 (San Bernardino County)

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Criminal Defense Lawyers


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Related Crimes

  • Forgery of Seals PC 472

  • Forgery of a Driver's License PC 470a

  • Possession of Forged Identification PC 470(b)

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