In California, individuals file legal documents for various reasons. All documents filed in government offices must be genuine to avoid criminal charges. Criminal offenses extend to white-collar activities which involve analyzing and verifying documents. California PC 115 defines the crime of filing false or forged documents. Many people assume the issues with the filing of paperwork. Unfortunately, a violation of Penal Code 115 is a serious felony that could see you spend a significant amount of time behind bars.
Before you face a conviction, the prosecutor must convince the court that you knew of the false nature of the documents you presented. Sometimes, you could face an arrest and charges even when there is a lack of knowledge or a genuine mistake. It is in your best interests to start fighting the charges as soon as you face an arrest.
With the complicated laws surrounding PC 115, your choice of an attorney could affect the outcome of your criminal case. At Darwish law, we offer the much-needed legal guidance to fight your charges for filing forged documents in Santa Ana, CA.
Overview of California Penal Code 115
You commit a crime under PC 115 when you file or register a forged document in the country. You will be liable under this statute when filing false documents in a government office. Before you face a conviction under this statute, the crime's elements must be clear.
In California criminal cases, the burden of proof lies with the prosecution. For each element the prosecution attempts to prove, they must present physical or circumstantial evidence to make their claims. Additionally, they can use witness testimony. Unless they prove these elements beyond a reasonable doubt, you cannot be found guilty of filing false documents:
1) You Presented a Document for Registration, Recording, or Filing in a Public Office
The primary element of filing forged documents is providing a public office with a document for filing or registration. Proving that you presented the papers requires witness testimony, especially from the government official who received the document. If you caused another person to deliver the document, the prosecution could include them in the witness list.
2) The Document You Filed was False
When it is clear that you presented a particular document, the prosecutor must go further to show that the document was forged or false. You do not have to be involved in changing the information on the document for you to face charges for violating PC 115. However, if the prosecution claims that you participated in manipulating the paper, they must present sufficient evidence to support this claim. You must understand that this can result in additional criminal charges.
There are several documents whose manipulation and presentation can result in PC 115 charges, including:
- Property deeds
- Deeds of trust
- Bail bonds documents
- Fishing records
3) You Knew that the Document was False When You Presented it.
You cannot face penalties for a crime you didn't know you had committed. Therefore, the prosecution is burdened with showing your knowledge of the fake nature of the documents you presented to the public office. Knowing that documents are false and moving ahead to give them shows criminal or fraudulent intent.
The critical factor in proving this element is showing your intention to unlawfully access monetary gains or undeserved benefits. In this case, presenting sufficient evidence of your knowledge can be challenging for the prosecution team. Due to the different nature of fraudulent acts, the prosecutor can use various tactics to retrace your steps when you engage in criminal acts.
Another factor that shows your knowledge of the nature of the documents is your demeanor when presenting the papers. If you requested to submit the document to a specific person, the prosecution might seek an investigation of the individual to determine if they were an accomplice to the crime.
4) The Documents You Presented would have Been Accepted if they Were Authentic.
The last element that the prosecutor must prove to obtain a conviction for filing forged documents is that the documents would be acceptable if they were authentic. Therefore, they must prove that you presented the document regularly using the papers from the public office and that the only difference from the original document was the false information.
The prosecution ascertains this claim by comparing the documents you presented with an original one from the public offices. This helps to identify the exact alternation done on your document.
Legal Penalties for Filing False Documents
A violation of California Penal Code 115 is a felony. A conviction under this statute attracts the following penalties:
- A maximum prison sentence of three years
- Fines that do not exceed $10,000
In addition to the standard penalties you face for filing a false document, there are aggravating factors that could increase the severity of your punishment, and they include:
- You committed the crime against multiple victims. If investigations on your offense reveal that your actions caused a loss to more than one separate party, you will be answerable to different complaints.
- Your actions paved the way to additional criminal activity. If filing a false document resulted intentionally or unintentionally in other illegal activities, your sentence will be enhanced. For example, if you present a fake property deed that resulted in real estate fraud, you will face a harsh penalty.
- You are charged with multiple fraudulent acts in your trial. If you engaged in other fraudulent activities during the presentation of the forged document, you would face an additional sentence after a PC 115 conviction.
- You caused another person to lose $100,000 or more through your actions.
If one of the aggravating factors applies to your case, you could face an additional prison sentence of up to five years. The court can also impose a fine of up to $500,000 or double the loss you caused your victims. Filing a false document is a crime of moral turpitude. For this reason, a conviction for the offense could result in serious immigration consequences like deportation or inadmissibility.
Felony Probation for Penal Code 115 Charges
Sometimes, the court can sentence you to probation instead of prison after a conviction for filing false documents. A probation sentence allows defendants to spend a portion of their sentence on community service. In California, felony probation lasts between three to five years. Probation is not automatic. Your attorney must negotiate with the prosecution for a chance at this sentence. Some of the factors that the judge considers before awarding felony probation include:
- Your criminal history. Defendants with a prior conviction for presenting false documents in a public office will not be eligible for probation.
- Effect of imprisonment. If sending you to prison could affect your mental capacity, the court opts to place you on supervised probation.
- Degree of loss you caused a victim. Since filing forged documents doesn’t cause physical harm, the degree of loss on the victim of your actions could determine your probation eligibility. You must serve your prison sentence if you caused a loss of $100,000 or more.
When sentencing you to probation, the court may attach the following conditions:
- Regular meetings with your probation officer. When probation is an option for your case, the court appoints a probation officer to monitor your progress. The court will then mandate that you schedule meetings with the officer to report your progress.
- Victim restitution. In most cases, filing false documents will result in monetary loss. As part of your probation, you must reimburse the victim for the losses you cause.
- Avoid engagement in criminal activity while on probation.
- Perform community service.
- Pay all fines associated with your case.
- Consent to random police searches throughout the probation period.
- Avoid association with known criminals.
Probation is less lenient compared to spending time behind bars. However, if you violate one of the conditions, you could face harsh consequences. A probation officer or law enforcement officers can report probation violations. If the court finds that you violated the terms, they could revoke the probation and reinstate the original or maximum prison sentence for your PC 115 conviction.
Defenses Against Penal Code 115 Charges
Putting up an aggressive defense against your charges is the only way to avoid the harsh consequences of a conviction for filing false documents. Building a defense against these charges involves digging through the facts of the case and finding fault in the prosecutor’s evidence. Common arguments you can employ in your case include the following:
Lack of an Intent to Defraud
One key element that establishes your liability under PC 115 is that you willfully failed the forged document to defraud or gain some benefits. The intent is a challenging element to prove in a criminal case. Therefore, you can argue that you did not intend to defraud anyone rather, the filing of the false document was a mistake of fact.
You Filed the Document Accidentally
For many legal documents, you create a draft before finalizing the document presented to public offices. Different information may be altered during the drafting process to meet specific needs. Mistakenly filing a false early draft can result in an arrest on suspicion of violating PC 115. With the guidance of a skilled attorney, you can present the correct document you intended to file and argue that you made a mistake.
Lack of Knowledge that the Document was False
You can only be guilty of violating PC 115 if the prosecutor proves that you knew of the false nature of the presented documents. Sometimes, you could receive a forged document and present it with the belief that it is authentic. You can escape liability under this statute by submitting evidence to support your innocent indulgence in delivering the forged documents.
Consent From Homeowner
PC 115 charges arise when you are accused of deceiving a homeowner to sign a property deed and present it to the public offices. With the guidance of a skilled attorney, you can argue that the homeowner gave you consent to sign and present the document. Therefore, you reasonably believed that the document was legitimate.
You did not File the Document in a Public Office
Filing a forged document surfaces under Penal Code 115 if the documents are presented in a public office. You can avoid a conviction under this statute by arguing that the document was filed with a private company and not with government offices. Although this defense can help you avoid charges under California PC 115, you still could face criminal charges for forgery and end up in jail.
People face false allegations for different crimes in California. Sometimes, you could be a victim of mistaken identity, or a person with whom you have a strained relationship can try to frame you. Fighting a case of false allegations can be challenging, especially when the allegations stem from police misconduct. Fortunately, a seasoned criminal attorney can uncover the false allegations scheme and help you avoid a conviction.
Offenses Related to Filing of False Documents
Violation of Penal Code 115 is one of the many offenses you can be charged for handling and presenting false documents. Depending on the type of document you gave, filing forged documents could be tied to the following charges:
CPC 470 defines forgery as falsifying a signature or altering a document with fraudulent intent. You can face an arrest and charges for forgery if you engage in the following acts:
- Sign another person’s name without their permission.
- Counterfeit or forge a seal on a document.
- Falsify or change the contents of legal documents like a will.
- Falsify documents like lottery tickets. Property deeds, contracts, or stock certificates.
After proving that you engaged in any of these acts, the prosecutor must establish your fraudulent intent. You still face a conviction and penalties under PC 470 even when no one suffered financial, property, or legal loss from your actions.
Unlike filing false documents, you do not need to present a fake record to a public office to be charged with forging a document. Violation of PC 3470 is a wobbler. The crime can attract felony or misdemeanor charges. The specific facts of your case and your criminal history could significantly impact the nature of your charges.
As a misdemeanor, forgery attracts a one-year jail sentence and $1000 in fines. A felony conviction, on the other hand, will see you spend up to three years in state prison. The court can also impose fines that do not exceed $10,000.
You commit the crime of perjury by providing false testimony under oath intentionally. Before you face a conviction for perjury, the prosecutor must establish these elements:
- You tooth an oath to give a truthful testimony
- You willfully stated that the information you provided was true with the knowledge that it was false
- The false information you provided was material. Information is considered material when it is critical to the outcome of a case.
- You knew that you were making a statement under oath
- You intended to testify falsely
Perjury is a felony punishable by a maximum of four years in prison and $10,000. The court can sometimes sentence you to probation instead of prison.
Destroying or Concealing Evidence
Under California PC 135, hiding or destroying evidence relevant to a police investigation, trial, or legal proceeding is a serious crime. PC 135 has the following key elements that must be clear to obtain a conviction:
- You destroyed or concealed evidence. Your acts of hiding or destroying evidence are essential in the prosecution of PC 135.
- You acted knowingly and willfully. A criminal act is considered willful if you act deliberately. Additionally, you must have known that the material you were destroying was intended for use as evidence.
- You destroyed or hid the evidence during a legal proceeding. Legal proceedings, in this case, could range from police investigations to trials.
Itrialsifornia, destroying or concealing evidence is charged as a misdemeanor. A conviction under this statute is punishable by a jail sentence of up to six months and fines not exceeding. Most cases of concealing evidence are resolved with negotiations. Otherwise, the case will continue to a criminal trial.
Find a Competent Defense Attorney Near Me
When you file a forged or false document with a government office in California, you risk facing an arrest and criminal charges under California Penal Code 115. Although filing false documents is a non-violent crime, such an offense can result in serious financial losses. In California, filing forged documents is a felony whose consequences are severe and life-changing. In addition to spending time in jail and incurring hefty fines, the conviction could result in a criminal record that affects multiple aspects of your life.
Fortunately, arrests and charges for violating PC 115 do not always result in a conviction. You can use various defenses to fight the charges to ensure a dismissal or reduction of your penalties. California laws on white-collar crimes are complicated. Therefore, seeking expert guidance is critical. At Darwish law, we have the knowledge and legal expertise you need to navigate your case and secure the best possible outcome. We serve clients battling charges for white-collar crimes in Santa Ana, CA. Contact us at 714-887-4810 to discuss your case.