Review of the Crime and Defenses for PC 475 Counterfeit Items
California Penal Code 475 PC makes it a crime for someone to have possession of a counterfeit item, such as a forged item with the intent to pass it on.
This could include possession of an uncompleted check with intent to complete it.
California considers counterfeiting a form of forgery. As such, it is a serious “wobbler” crime. Even a first-time counterfeiting charge can result in a misdemeanor or felony and some jail time.
Prosecutors can charge individuals with forgery if they possess or use counterfeit items with the intent to defraud another person.
It can be as simple as using fake money or as complex as counterfeiting an official seal. Although the laws are straightforward, prosecutors face barriers to convicting people for counterfeiting.
To hold a defendant accountable for counterfeiting, prosecutors must prove that the defendant acted with the intent to defraud.
If someone can show they did not know that an item was counterfeit, they could have their Penal Code 475 PC charges dropped.
Our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys are providing readers a detailed review below on California's counterfeit items laws.
Definition of Possessing Counterfeit Items
California's counterfeit items law under Penal Code 475 PC establishes restrictions on counterfeit items, which states that:
- “Anyone who possesses or receives, with intent to pass or facilitate the passage or utterance of any forged, altered, or counterfeit items, or completed items within subdivision (d) of Section 470 with intent to defraud, knowing the same to be forged, altered, or counterfeit, is guilty of forgery.”
The terms “defraud” means attempting to trick or persuade someone by use of dishonest means.
Related California offenses for PC 475 possession of counterfeit items include:
- Penal Code 470 PC – forgery
- Penal Code 472 PC – counterfeit seals,
- Penal Code 350 PC – counterfeit marks.
Possession of specific items
Although PC 475 prohibits possessing any counterfeiting items, it also places restrictions on specific items. People may not possess and intend to defraud another person with the following items:
- blank or unfinished check,
- bank bill,
- money order,
- traveler's check.
California Penal Code 470 - Forgery
California Penal Code 470 expands upon counterfeiting restrictions. It prohibits anyone from altering, forging, or counterfeiting certain items with the intent to defraud.
The list includes bills of exchange, contracts, lottery tickets, passage tickets, power of attorney, certificate of ownership, and many more.
PC 470 considers the following intentional acts fraud:
- signing the name of another person or a fictitious person to any of the items listed in subdivision (d);
- counterfeiting or forging the seal or handwriting;
- altering, corrupting, or falsifying any record of any will, codicil, conveyance, or other instrument the record of which is by law evidence, or any record of any judgment of a court or the return of any officer to any process of any court.
Intent to defraud another person
In all of these circumstances, a person must have the intent to defraud another person. California Civil Code Section 1572 defines fraud as:
- the suggestion, as a fact, of that which is not true, by one who does not believe it to be true;
- the positive assertion, in a manner not warranted by the information of the person making it, of that which is not true, though he believes it to be true;
- the suppression of that which is true, by one having knowledge or belief of the fact;
- a promise made without any intention of performing it; or,
- any other act fitted to deceive.
What are the Penalties for PC 475 Counterfeit Items?
Since California considers counterfeiting a form of forgery, those charged with counterfeiting face either misdemeanor or felony charges, which is called a “wobbler.”
If you violate Penal Code 475 possession of counterfeit items, then you are guilty of forgery, which is punishable by by imprisonment in a county jail for no more than one year if the forged item does not exceed $950.
Misdemeanor forgery can also include a maximum $1,000 fine, or summary probation.
if a person counterfeits items valued at more than $950 or has prior forgery convictions, they face steeper consequences.
Felony forgery punishments include imprisonment up to three years and a maximum fine of $10,000.
It should be noted that even a felony forgery conviction could result in a judge awarding a defendant formal probation, rather than a jail sentence.
Defenses for PC 475 Counterfeit Items
If you were accused of violating Penal Code 275 possession of counterfeit items, our criminal lawyers will attempt to get the charges reduced or dismissed. Some on the most common defenses include:
- lack of intent to defraud,
- lack of knowledge,
- insufficient evidence,
- false allegation.
Recall from above that the prosecutor must prove a defendant acted with a specific intent to defraud someone.
We might be able to make a reasonable argument this required requisite can't be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Also recall from above the prosecutor has to prove defendant knew they were in possession of a forged item.
Perhaps we can make an argument defendant didn't know the item was actually forged.
Further, we might be able to show that law enforcement falsely accused you. Perhaps you are the victim of mistaken identity and were wrongfully arrested and falsely accused.
Counterfeit cases have a wide range of outcomes. Whether you face a misdemeanor or a felony charge, being found guilty of counterfeiting can have life-changing consequences.
If you face a counterfeiting investigation, call our experienced criminal attorneys.
We can review your case and collect evidence to refute the charges. We might be able to create a defense that leads to acquittal or dropped charges.
Our team of criminal lawyers have a track record of success in prefiling intervention to persuade the prosecutor from filing charges.
Eisner Gorin LLP is located at 1999 Avenue of the Stars, 11th Fl., Los Angeles, CA 90067. Our main office is located at 14401 Sylvan St #112 Van Nuys, CA 91401.
If you face a counterfeit charge, contact us at (877) 781-1570.