Individuals in California must file legal documents in public offices for a wide range of reasons. All filed documents must be legitimate and genuine in order to avoid criminal charges. Filing any forged document can lead to charges under California Penal Code Section 115: Filing a False Document.
Many people do not consider issues with paperwork to be a serious crime. However, California Penal Code Section 115 is prosecuted as a felony, and a conviction can have serious consequences. The professional legal team at the Simmrin Law Group can help you go over this charge, possible defenses, and the penalties for a conviction.
PC 115: The Official Definition
To convict a defendant under Penal Code 115, a California prosecutor must be able to prove that all of the following occurred:
- The defendant filed, registered, or recorded a document with a public office
- The filed document was forged or falsified in some other manner
- The defendant was aware of the falsification in the document
- The document was of a type that could legally be filed if authentic
Individuals should only be prosecuted for filing a false document if the document can actually be filed. This means individuals should not be convicted for trying to file a document that would not be accepted at a public office in any case.
There are many different documents that can result in a PC 115 charge. Filing false document charges are often used in real estate fraud cases that involve forging property deeds. However, individuals can also be prosecuted for filing many other documents, including:
- Bail bonds
- Fishing records
- Deeds of trust
- Mechanics’ liens
PC 115: Example of Filing a False Document
There are many ways that an individual can file a false document. The following examples demonstrate some of the ways in which a PC 115 violation could occur:
A woman is taking care of her elderly father and decides that his home should be moved to her name. She does not ask him about this and does not go through legal channels. Instead, she forges the property deed and files the paperwork. She could be convicted of filing a false document if her actions were discovered.
A couple is divorcing, and one spouse keeps putting off signing the divorce papers. The other spouse gets fed up and eventually forges the signature of their ex and files the paperwork. The filing party could be prosecuted under California Penal Code Section 115.
PC 115: Penalties for a Conviction
The court system in California can hand down incredibly harsh penalties for filing a false document conviction. PC 115 is considered a felony in California. That means that the related penalties will be much harsher than other crimes charged as misdemeanors or infractions. Convictions can lead to:
- Fines of up to $10,000
- Prison time of up to three years
- Felony probation
Individuals can face penalties for each false document that they file. An individual that files three false documents at the same time could end up spending three years in prison for each document, for a total of nine years of prison time.
Prison time may also be increased if filing a false document deprives a property owner of:
- $65,000 – $100,000: One to four years of additional prison time
- More than $100,000: Once to five years of additional prison time
Additionally, the defendant may face an aggravated white-collar crime enhancement if their actions are found to be particularly egregious. This enhancement could bring an additional fine of up to $500,000 or double the amount of the fraud (whichever is greater).
Will a Conviction under Penal Code 115 Affect My Gun Rights
Because California PC Section 115 is a felony charge, a conviction would strip away your gun rights. Those convicted of a felony are barred from purchasing a gun, owning a gun, or possessing a gun.
Note that, depending on the type of false document that is filed, an individual could face additional charges. Filing a false claim is often tied to charges such as:
- California Penal Code Section 532(f): Mortgage Fraud
- California Penal Code Section 470: Forgery
- California Penal Code Section 118: Perjury
- California Penal Code Section 132 & 134: Offering Or Preparing False Evidence
- California Penal Code Section 135: Destroying Or Concealing Evidence
- California Penal Code Section 368: Elder Abuse
These charges can lead to harsher penalties that can include increased fines and additional years of incarceration.
PC 115: Defenses to Filing a False Document Charges
Building a defense for a PC 115 charge can require your criminal defense lawyer to dig into the facts surrounding your situation. Depending on your circumstances, a professional lawyer may be able to show that:
- You filed a false document by accident
- You were tricked by a forgery
- You did not file the document with a public office
- You were falsely accused
You Filed a False Document by Accident
Often, many drafts of a legal document are created before the final product is printed. It can be easy to grab an early (“false”) draft and file it. You should not be convicted under PC 115 if you intended to file the correct document and merely made a mistake.
You Were Tricked by a Forgery
Sometimes, individuals in California are given forged documents that they believe to be legitimate. If you filed a document that you believed to be valid, you should not be convicted for filing a false document.
You Did Not File the Document With a Public Office
You may be able to show that you did not, in fact, file the document with a public office. Instead, you may have filed it with a private company. While this defense could help you avoid prosecution under Penal Code 115, you may still be open to other legal charges because forgery is still a crime beyond this statute.
You Were Falsely Accused
Unfortunately, for whatever reason, people are falsely accused of crimes all the time. Sometimes it is a case of mistaken identity. However, more often in cases like this, the reason has to do with a dispute between the accuser and the accused. Your criminal defense lawyer may be able to prove that the accusation against you is unfounded.
The severity of a PC 115 charge means that you should get help from a professional criminal defense lawyer right away to handle these accusations.
Can a Penal Code Section 115 Conviction Be Expunged?
Under California law, a person convicted of a crime punishable by a prison term can not get their conviction expunged. Because of this, if you are convicted under PC 115, you will carry that conviction on your criminal record forever.
Getting Help With Filing a False Document Charges
Individuals accused of violating California Penal Code Section 115: Filing a False Document often end up facing difficult legal challenges. You can get help defending yourself by contacting the Simmrin Law Group today.
We can offer you a free, no-obligation case evaluation to help you better understand your legal standing. Get the professional help you need by completing our online contact form or giving us a call.