You can bring legal documents with public entities for several reasons. The filed documents should be genuine and legitimate. Bringing a false or forged document could result in a criminal charge per California Penal Code Section 115 PC. Although many don't regard paperwork issues as a severe offense, a conviction carries severe penalties. You also risk losing your reputation, employment, and freedom. Our legal team at the Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm can represent you if you are facing charges for filing false documents.
Overview of Filing False Documents
California Penal Code Section 115 PC makes it an offense to intentionally file, register, or record forged or false documents with a California public office. Although deeds of trust and real estate deed are common documents involving PC 115, the law applies to virtually all types of documents filed with the government, such as:
- Bail bonds
- Income statements
- Tax returns
- Bank account records
- Lien for money
- Personal checks
- Birth certificates
- Identification cards
- Immigration documents
- Fishing records
To be convicted of PC 115, the prosecution must establish the below facts of the offense beyond any reasonable doubt:
- You presented documents for filing, registration, or recording with a public entity,
- You were aware that the documents were forged or false when you filed them, and
- If authentic, the documents can be lawfully filed.
To gain an understanding of the above definition, here is a closer look at the elements of the crime:
Causing or Presenting Documents to be Filed
The legal term "presenting" means that the defendant presented documents to a government office for registration, recording, and filing. That means you could be convicted of a violation of PC 115 even when the documents are not recorded, registered, or filed.
Moreover, you could be sentenced even when you didn't file the documents yourself. Causing somebody else to record, register, or file the document on your behalf is enough criminal liability.
Forged or False Documents
As previously stated, PC 115 applies to numerous documents. The forged or false documents should have information that either:
- Affect the third party's rights, as far as government regulations or laws as concerned with the purpose of bringing them with a public entity, or
- The government is allowed or required by law to rely on.
Knowing Your Document was Forged or False
To be convicted of PC 115, the prosecution team should present evidence that the necessary document was forged or false. Since it is challenging to prove the exact mindset or intent of a person, the prosecutor should depend on circumstantial evidence to establish this fact. Bearing that in mind, your qualified criminal defense lawyer could attack the facts of the prosecutor's case.
Penalties, Consequences, and Sentencing for Filing False Documents
Violating Penal Code Section 115 PC is a California felony. It attracts:
- Up to ten thousand dollars in fines
- A maximum of three years in county jail
The judge could award probation instead of incarceration. However, you might not qualify if the following statements are correct:
- You have a previous PC 115 conviction
- You got sentenced for at least one PC 115 count and led to a loss that exceeded one hundred thousand dollars
You can also face aggravated sentencing enhancement if every statement below is correct:
- You were convicted of more than two felonies involving embezzlement and fraud (one of which could be Penal Code Section 115 PC) in the same proceeding
- The California felonies are part of a pattern of crime
- The crimes were against either one victim on more than one separate occasion or at least two different victims
- Your conduct deprived the alleged victim(s) of above one hundred thousand dollars
Aggravated enhancement can result in:
- Twice the fraud amount or an additional fine of five hundred thousand dollars (whichever is more significant)
- One (1) to five (5) more years in California state prison
A Conviction Might Affect Your Gun Rights
A Penal Code Section 115 PC conviction could have negative consequences on your firearm rights. In California, felons should give up their entitlement to possess, buy, or own a gun.
Because PC 115 is a California felony, a conviction will strip you of your firearm rights.
Immigration Penalties and Consequences
A conviction could result in immigration penalties.
The law marks some crimes as crimes involving moral turpitude. If an immigrant commits either of these crimes, they could be marked as inadmissible or deported.
Filing false documents is an offense that involves moral turpitude if you intended to defraud. If you acted with the intent, you might be considered inadmissible or face deportation. Being marked admissible means, you will not be permitted to reenter the U.S if you leave, apply for a green card, or obtain citizenship.
Can You Expunge Your Filing False Documents Charges?
You cannot expunge your conviction if convicted of Penal Code 115. Per PC 1203.4, an expungement releases a defendant from almost all penalties and consequences stemming from a conviction. However, the law does not permit a person to get their conviction expunged if the alleged crime carries a prison sentence.
Fortunately, you can obtain relief for your offense through:
- Governor's pardon
- Commutation of California prison sentence
- A certificate of rehabilitation
Various Available Defenses of Filing False Documents Charges
There are various legal defenses to beat PC 115 charges. Your experienced criminal defense attorney should review your case circumstances to develop strategies that use every possible avenue to realize the most favorable possible case outcome. The following are the common valid legal defenses:
You Were Not Aware that the Documents were Forged or False
The defendant should be aware that the documents were false. That fact could be the prosecutor's assumption and disproved by proof to the opposing.
Generally, the legal defense is used when an employee files a forged or false document. The employee might not have known of their company's deceitful schemes and could be just complying with orders.
You Were Falsely Accused
Persons face false accusations all the time due to property disputes, family drama, and vengeance. The best way to fight false accusations is collecting evidence that supports your side of the story. That way, you strengthen your case, making it hard for the prosecutor to prove the elements of the crime beyond any reasonable doubt.
The Defendant Did not Present the Documents for Filing in a Public Office
PC 115 applies if you presented documents for filing with a public office like the Department of Motor Vehicles. Therefore, it is a defense to prove that you didn't present the document to a public authority. You can claim that the document was submitted to a private company or employer.
However, even if successful and the documents were false, you might face charges under another statute.
The Alleged Victim Consented to Present the Document
Generally, prosecutors file PC 115 because they think the accused deceived an asset owner over a real estate deed, or the accused forged the documents. A prosecutor could be suspicious if the asset owner is elderly or living with disabilities. Nevertheless, the reality might be the alleged victim forgot that he transferred the title to you. Or want to withdraw from a deal or change their mind and claim he is a fraud victim. In either instance, you could avoid a conviction if you could prove that you had permission during document creation.
Violation of Your Rights
Violating your rights is a technical legal defense and does not mean you aren't guilty of PC 115. It is a defense against evidence collected, and your defense attorney could argue that the evidence should not be admissible in a court of law.
After your arrest, the police should read you your rights before questioning you. One of the rights is the right to remain silent. Otherwise, that will be deemed as a violation of your rights, and your statements could be dismissed. However, if you aren't being questioned and detained, the Miranda is not a legal defense.
Other issues could be coerced confessions or violations of the U.S. Fourth Amendment rights. If you can prove that the law enforcers coerced you into confession, then:
- Your case could be dropped, or
- The court can exclude your confession from case evidence.
Statute of Limitations
You cannot be convicted of filing false documents if the statute of limitations has expired. In PC 115 cases, the statute of limitations starts running when the prosecution team learns or should have learned that the crime was committed.
Generally, the statute of limitations in California for felonies is three years.
Typically, there are several drafts prepared before the official filing in a public office. Your criminal defense lawyer could argue that you accidentally picked and presented the incorrect draft instead of the intended document (it wasn't intentional conduct).
Discussed below are offenses that are charged in place of or alongside Penal Code Section 115 PC:
Per California Penal Code Section 368 PC, it is illegal to abuse an older person. The law applies to emotional or physical abuse, financial exploitation, or neglect of an individual at least sixty-five years.
If you file a forged document and your conduct leads to an individual's financial exploitation above sixty-five years, you might be charged with either PC 115 or PC 368.
Violation of a PC 368 is a wobbler. If charged with a misdemeanor, you will pay restitution to the alleged victim, pay a fine of six thousand dollars, and spend a year in county jail. On the other hand, a felony carries the following penalties:
- Four years in state prison
- Up to ten thousand dollars in fines
PC 470 is the section that makes it an offense to alter documents or falsify signatures fraudulently. Unlike PC 115, you don't have to offer the forged documents to a public entity to violate forgery law. Altering a signature or document is enough.
It is a wobbler. If charged with a misdemeanor, you risk facing:
- A summary (misdemeanor) probation
- A year in jail
- One thousand dollars in fines
A felony attracts a fine of ten thousand dollars, three years in county jail, and felony probation.
Penal Code Section 118 (Perjury)
Under PC 118, it is an offense for you to give false statements while under oath. The difference between perjury and PC 115 is that perjury involves false testimony or statements.
Perjury is a California felony. It is punishable by:
- A maximum of four years in California state prison
- A fine of ten thousand dollars
Please note, the judge could award you with felony probation in place of prison time.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reports that police made approximately 10,000,000 arrests across the U.S. in 2015 alone. Nevertheless, only an insignificant percentage of the arrest resulted in trials. Some of the charges are resolved through plea bargain negotiations.
A plea bargain is an agreement that you make with the prosecutors to plead guilty to a less severe criminal charge in return for your case dismissal. Both the prosecution and the defendant surrender something and achieve something. The prosecutor waives their entitlement to charge the accused but acquires a sentence on a less severe charge. On the other hand, the defendant gives up the rights to a trial and obtains some leniency.
The court should approve any plea bargain negotiations. The judge will ask you questions to ensure the plea is voluntary and that the court has not promised you something that it can't deliver. Moreover, the judge will explain to you the effects of accepting the plea bargain. The explanation includes:
- You are also waiving your right to appeal the case.
- You are waiving the entitlement to confront the prosecutor's witness.
After the court approval, each party is obligated to adhere to their duty as far as the plea bargain agreement is concerned. For instance, if you agree to submit testimony or evidence against other defendants and fail to do so, the court could revoke the agreement. It could also result in a more severe charge.
Should you take a plea bargain? It would be best if you considered the advantages of taking a plea bargain against the disadvantages of going to trial. Additionally, it would help if you had the legal insights and advice.
What to Do If You Have an Arrest Warrant for Filing False Documents in California
An arrest warrant authorizes the police to arrest and detain a defendant if they suspect the accused committed an offense outside their presence.
The judge will issue an arrest warrant based on:
- Declaration of the district attorney or a police officer
- After a grand jury indictment
A valid arrest warrant should include:
- Your name
- The alleged offense you committed
- Issuance time
- Place of issuance
- The court's name
- The judge's title and signature
Measures Police Take to Execute an Arrest Warrant
The police can arrest you in your business, workplace, or home.
Arrest Warrant Executed at Your Home
If police officers try to arrest you in your residence, they should have probable cause to think you're inside. If they try to arrest your guest, they should have a search warrant to execute the arrest.
It is Not a Must that the Police Officer Brings the Actual Copy of Your Arrest Warrant
There are no requirements that the cops executing the arrest warrant have the original copy of the warrant provided they can establish they were lawfully informed about its existence.
After the arrest, you'll be handcuffed and detained.
The Cops Should Executed Arrest Warrants Issued by a Judge
After the police receive the arrest warrant, they should arrest you. Should the cops intentionally fail to do so, they risk facing contempt of court.
Moreover, the warrant should be executed within a reasonable time. Otherwise, you might have the right to charge dismissal based on the fact that your right to a speedy trial was broken.
When Can the Police Execute the Arrest Warrant?
A felony warrant can be executed at any time.
After your arrest, you should be taken before the judge within forty-eight hours, excluding holidays and Sundays.
What Takes Place to Your Arrest Warrant Should You Leave the County or State?
If a defendant knows that she is being sought for filing false documents and flees, she is deemed a fugitive from justice. It's the case regardless of whether the accused believes she is innocent of the charges. A fugitive should be extradited, notwithstanding why she left California. Extradition is transporting a fugitive from hiding to the county or state of the alleged crime. It also means, if the defendant runs and is caught, they risk facing penalties for fleeing.
However, if you were not aware of the warrant, you are not a fugitive. It can change how and when you were brought to the Golden State to face the pending PC 115 charges.
Can Your Criminal Defense Attorney Prevent the Issuing of Your Arrest Warrant?
If you're under PC 115 investigations, your defense attorney can often prevent the charge from being brought. Your lawyer will investigate your case and collect evidence that proves your innocence. They can also dissuade the prosecutor from filing the criminal charges.
Moreover, the attorney will advise appearing before the judge voluntarily. It saves you the agony of being detained in front of your loved ones and colleagues. It can also help you win the judge's favor, making it easier for the judge to release you on your own recognizance or a lower bail.
Wrongful Police Conduct Could Assist Your PC 115 Case
Any experienced criminal defense attorney should argue that evidence that was acquired after an illegal arrest should be excluded from your trial. Likewise, if the warrant was not legally executed, the case will not be dismissed automatically.
However, if the lawyer can persuade the court that the cop's misconduct was prejudicial or unjust to the case, they could negotiate for a plea bargain.
Winning Your PC 115 Charge in Court: Your Criminal Defense Lawyer's Strategy
If you have been charged with filing false documents, several phases have already taken place and are yet to happen in the criminal process. If you have been charged, it means a person filed a complaint or investigation has occurred, resulting in issuing an arrest warrant.
After the DA has proof against you, you will be charged and given a court date.
Your defense lawyer should request the evidence or discovery the prosecutor has against you. Then the legal expert will review the evidence to determine the prosecutor's case weaknesses and strengths. They will also analyze the risks of using different defense strategies. After the review, your lawyer should discuss the case details with you to know the next cause of action.
Like most people, you might be worried that the charge might result in prison time. Nevertheless, prison time is not an expected outcome in most charges, especially if you do not have a prior criminal record.
Discussed below is your lawyer's toolbox:
The best criminal case is not a case yet because the charge has not been filed. If you've been called by police investigating the crime, it means an arrest warrant hasn't been issued, and evidence is being collected. Usually, this is the best time to engage an attorney.
Hinging on the nature of the accusations, your lawyer can sometimes prevent a charge from being filed. The responsibility of the attorney is to manage the information flow between you and the prosecution team. Making a wise decision about what information to share makes the difference between being sentenced or not sentenced for filing false documents.
If your lawyer determines that your case is strong after reviewing your case information, one of the options to explore is fighting your trial case. During the trial, the attorney will outline your case's favorable facts and establish that the prosecutor hasn't proved your case beyond any reasonable doubt. The lawyer will achieve this by interviewing witnesses and cross-examining the prosecutor's witnesses.
Find a White-Collar Crime Defense Attorney Near Me
To ensure that you have the most favorable opportunity to avoid the severe penalties that comes with a PC 115 conviction, you must seek legal advice and representation. The Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm can help you fight for your freedom. Contact us at 714-740-7848 to book your initial consultation today.