Back on August 2nd, a licensed real estate agent from Camarillo pled guilty to forgery. According to reports, the real estate agent had been forging his clients’ signatures on documents for some time, all without their knowledge.

In California, forgery is covered under California Penal Code 470 PC and is described as signing the name of another person (whether they are real or not); counterfeiting or forging someone else’s personal seal or handwriting; falsifying, corrupting, or altering certain legal documents; falsely make or alter certain legal documents including checks, bonds, and money orders.

A few examples that might end up causing someone to be charged with forgery include:

  • Signing someone else’s name
  • Inserting a page in someone else’s will to give you more money
  • Endorsing a check made out to someone else without their expressed permission

Forgery is considered a “wobbler” because it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances of the crime and the suspect’s prior criminal history. However, the crime is only charged as a misdemeanor when the forged document is a check, money order, or something similar and has a value of $950 or less. For all other instances of forgery, felony charges are filed.

The punishment for a misdemeanor conviction includes misdemeanor probation, up to 1 year in county jail, and/or up to $1,000 in fines. Felony convictions typically carry stiffer penalties. These include felony probation, up to 3 years in county jail, and/or up to $10,000 in fines.

The sentence that the suspect in the case above received includes 180 days in county jail, two years of formal probation, and obligated payment of $102,000 in restitution to his victims.

The defendant’s sentence included far less jail time than the maximum allowed and is likely a consequence of pleading guilty. Sometimes, but not always, courts will show leniency in punishments for people who do. Depending on the nature and severity of their crime, of course.