If a government office requires you to file or provide specific documents, you must provide truthful and legitimate documents to avoid criminal charges. Filing a false document is a grave felony under PC 115. Genuine and legitimate documents offer the exact information a government office requires to make a particular decision or grant a service. If you falsify or otherwise forge a legal document, you make it difficult for the government to serve as it should or to make a valid decision. It could also cause you or another person to benefit from a service you are not eligible for.

Knowingly, filing false or forged documents in a public office in Monterey is a grave offense. It can result in a lengthy prison sentence and a hefty court fine. If you face false accusations or did not intentionally file false documents, our skilled criminal attorneys at Monterey Criminal Attorney can help you fight your charges. We can use our best legal defense strategies to compel the judge to reduce or dismiss your case.

The Legal Definition of Filing a False Document

Documents in government offices provide the information needed to make a particular decision. For example, the government needs your name, social security number (SSN), and address to provide crucial services like unemployment benefits and medical services. Filing false or forged documents makes government service to its people impossible. Some people falsify documents or information in legal documents with fraudulent intent. Other people commit these crimes to make it impossible for the proper beneficiaries to enjoy the services for which they are eligible.

That is why the government, through the police, prosecutors, and judges, takes these matters seriously. Filing a false document is a felony under California law. The police are always vigilant and ready to apprehend anyone suspected of filing forged or falsified legal documents. The prosecutor will immediately file felony charges once they receive your file and supporting evidence from the police. You could end up serving a lengthy prison sentence upon conviction if the evidence convinces the judge that you knowingly filed a forged or false document with a public office.

However, the legal process is sometimes more complex and quick than it sounds. The prosecutor must demonstrate all the elements of this offense beyond a reasonable doubt for the jury to deliver a guilty verdict. The elements of this crime fall under PC 115. The prosecutor must demonstrate each of them beyond a reasonable doubt to prove to the jury your guilt. These elements are as follows:

  • You knowingly presented or submitted falsified or forged documents to a public office for recording or registration, or
  • You helped another person file a falsified or forged document to a public office for recording or registration.
  • You know or should have reasonably known that the documents were forged or falsified.
  • If the filed documents were legitimate, you would have submitted or presented them in the same office for the same purpose.

A competent criminal attorney can elaborate on the elements further to help you understand the legal implications of your charges and the possible sentence upon conviction.

Presenting, Submitting, or Facilitating Documents

PC 115 is a white-collar offense that occurs through the filing, submitting, or facilitation of legal documents. Under this law, you will face criminal charges for presenting or submitting a false document for filing in a public office or enabling another person to submit or present documents in a public office. The former means you present the documents for registration or recording, while the latter means that someone else presents the documents on your behalf. You are guilty even if the officer receiving the documents notices the forgery or false information and does not process it. However, an aggressive criminal attorney can fight for a reduced charge for attempting to provide falsified documents.

False or Forged Documents

PC 115 prohibits the filing or facilitation of the filing of false or forged documents. Government officers process all legal documents, from identification and birth certificates to legal notices and title deeds. This means that you can face charges for practically any document, however trivial it is in the legal process you are going through. All the documents the government offices handle must be authentic or genuine. The documents considered genuine or authentic must have the following characteristics:

  • All their details must provide information a government officer requires for a particular decision.
  • Through filing, the documents must not violate the rights of other people

Example: Sarah successfully obtains a protective order against her abusive boyfriend, Mark. However, the restraining order does not meet her expectations, as it does not keep Mark out of their daughter Maria’s life. She decides to add Maria to the order before serving it to Mark.

Here, Sarah is guilty of knowingly falsifying a legal document and passing it as genuine.

Knowingly Filing a False Document

A violation of PC 115 must be committed knowingly so that the judge can sentence you according to the law. This means you must know or should reasonably know that the documents you submit to the government office are false or forged. This also means the court will dismiss your charges if you make an honest mistake. The judge can dismiss your charges if your attorney demonstrates that the error was genuine.

Possible Penalties for Filing a False Document

Recall that filing a false document in a public office is a felony. This makes the crime graver than a misdemeanor or infraction. Felonies are punishable by time in prison instead of jail and a hefty fine. Here are the possible penalties if the jury delivers a guilty verdict after your trial:

  • Felony probation for three to five years
  • Sixteen months, two or three years in state prison
  • A court fine of up to $10,000

Note: Your charges and penalties will be for every false document you present to a government office. Thus, you could face multiple charges and possible convictions for submitting multiple false documents. This will be the case even if the documents in question are closely related or are for the same purpose.

Additionally, you are not eligible for probation under specific circumstances, including the following:

  • You have a prior conviction under PC 115 on your record
  • You face multiple charges for multiple counts of filing fake documents, and your actions would likely cause or have caused another person or people to lose at least $100,000.

Sentencing Enhancement Under PC 115

You could be subject to sentencing enhancement under specific circumstances after a conviction under this statute. For example, suppose you submit false or forged documents of a particular kind to a public office, like the mortgage title of a residential estate with four or more units. In that case, the judge can increase your prison sentence and court fine. Your court fine could go up to $75,000.

Additionally, if your actions cause another person a financial loss of at least $65,000 and the prosecutor can demonstrate your fraudulent intent, the judge could increase your prison sentence by four years.

Note: The additional penalty you receive through sentencing enhancement must be served successively with the sentence for the underlying offense.

The judge can also enhance your sentence under PC 115 if there are aggravating factors in your case. Examples of aggravating factors that could result in a longer prison sentence and a heftier fine include the following:

  • You face at least two convictions in the same trial for fraud or embezzlement, and one of the convictions is under PC 115
  • The convictions demonstrate a pattern of criminal behavior
  • Your crimes were against different victims, or the victim is the same, but you committed the crimes on various occasions.
  • The victim(s) suffered a financial loss of $100,000 or more through your actions.

The judge can enhance your sentence for up to five years for aggravating factors. Your court fine can also increase to $50,000 or double the crime value (the judge will choose whichever is greater).

Other Consequences of a Conviction Under PC 115

A conviction for any white-collar offense is life-altering. You will likely face many life-altering consequences on top of the lengthy prison sentence and hefty court fine.

For example, filing a false document with fraudulent intent is considered a crime of moral turpitude. In that case, it will affect an immigrant’s status. This means the judge can order your removal, or you may become inadmissible to the United States.

If you commit this offense within five years of your admission to the United States and the prosecutor can prove your fraudulent intent, deportation could be inevitable. If there is a previous conviction for a crime of moral turpitude, a conviction under PC 115 can result in inevitable deportation. If the immigration department marks you as objectionable, you cannot return to the United States after leaving. You are also ineligible for permanent residency.

A conviction under PC 115 can also affect your professional license.  If you hold a professional license, your issuing board can suspend or revoke it, depending on the circumstances of your case. You can practice your profession once the board reinstates it, even after serving your sentence.

A felony conviction will affect your gun rights. Remember that felons are prohibited from owning, possessing, or buying firearms in California. A conviction under PC 115 makes you a felon. You could lose your gun rights temporarily or permanently, depending on the circumstances of your case.

A conviction under PC 115 will leave you with a damaging criminal record that can affect various aspects of your life for years. For example, it could affect how you make friends. Remember that being in prison for years can affect your relationships, even with your close family and friends. Making friends after that could be challenging, mainly because people do not freely engage with ex-convicts.

People and companies that run background checks before engaging others can easily decide based on what they find. For example, a potential employer can choose not to hire you for a job based on your criminal history. That could make it challenging to find suitable employment after a conviction. Landlords, too, conduct background checks. Based on that information, they could deny you a chance to rent or lease.

Defending Yourself Against PC 115 Charges

The consequences of a conviction for filing a false document are stiff. But you can fight your charges to avoid a conviction and its severe consequences. You can do so with the assistance of a skilled criminal attorney. Criminal attorneys use different fighting strategies to compel the judge to reduce or dismiss criminal charges. Here are some of  the methods that your attorney can use in your case for a favorable outcome:

You Did Not Know That The Documents Were False

A conviction under PC 115 occurs only if you knowingly file a false document with a public office. The prosecutor must demonstrate this knowledge for the court to deliver a guilty verdict. The judge will dismiss your charges if you acted innocently and were unaware that the documents were false or forged.

An aggressive attorney will use their skills and experience to convince the jury that you could not file a false document knowingly. They can argue that someone else falsified the document before giving it to you for filing or that someone gave you a forged document for filing. If the jury is convinced of your innocence, you will be acquitted of all your charges.

You Did Not File The Document With a Government Office

The provisions of this statute are unambiguous, and you are guilty of a felony offense if you file a false document with a public office. The prosecutor must demonstrate that you had a document, it was fake or falsified, and you filed it with a public office. The judge will dismiss your charges if you gave the document to an officer on friendly grounds or filed it with a private company.

An aggressive criminal attorney will counter the prosecutor’s case with irrefutable evidence. Remember that if the prosecutor cannot demonstrate your charges beyond a reasonable doubt, the judge will acquit you of all charges.

You are Falsely Accused

False accusations are widespread in white-collar crimes. Some people falsely accuse others of crimes others have not committed out of jealousy, a desire for revenge, or to gain an advantage over them. An aggressive criminal attorney will not let you take the fall for a crime you did not commit. They will table any evidence that will compel the judge to dismiss your charges.

For example, your attorney can use your alibi to prove you did not commit the crime. Eyewitness testimony or video surveillance can also show that someone else filed false documents and not you. The judge will dismiss your charges if the prosecutor cannot prove your case beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Police Failed to Conduct Themselves as Legally Required

Police misconduct is common, and defendants can use it to obtain a favorable outcome for their cases. Typically, law enforcement officers are guided by a code of ethics and strict regulations to which they must adhere when serving the public. For example, the police must not violate a defendant’s rights regardless of the evidence they have against them. If your rights are violated during an arrest or crime investigation, any evidence gathered through that violation is inadmissible in trial.

Your attorney can use this defense strategy if you believe that the police violated your rights in any legal process you went through. For example, if the arresting officer failed to read your Miranda rights, you can compel the judge to dismiss any evidence they gathered against you without counsel. The arresting officer must wait until you have legal representation to question you.

You can also use this defense if the police use force, brutality, or fraud to obtain a confession.

Expungement of Your Criminal Record

Expungement is another legal tool that can result in a favorable outcome in your legal situation. Remember how life-altering a criminal record can be. The felony conviction remains on your record for years. It affects various aspects of your life, even after you finish your sentence. For example, finding a job, making friends, and obtaining services like auto insurance could make it challenging. That is why the law offers you a chance to start life afresh through expungement after serving your sentence.

Expungements eliminate all the disabilities and negative consequences of a criminal conviction. It entails erasing the conviction from your criminal record and rendering it inaccessible to anyone who runs a background check on you. Criminal court judges grant expungement through a petition by the ex-convict through their criminal attorney. You prepare and file this petition in the same court where the conviction occurred.

Upon receiving your expungement petition, the judge will consider your criminal record and how you performed your sentence to grant or deny it. If the judge grants your petition, that particular conviction will cease to exist in your criminal background. You will only know about it if you disclose it to them. You must only disclose an expunged conviction when applying for a public office.

However, you must be eligible for expungement for the judge to grant your petition. The crime you were convicted for must be eligible for expungement. In most cases, judges expunge misdemeanor convictions. However, a skilled criminal attorney can help you explore other legal options to ensure your petition is successful. You must also complete your sentence before filing the petition. Whether the judge sentences you to probation, prison, or jail, you must serve your sentence in full to expunge the conviction. You must also not face charges for another crime or be on probation for another crime during the application process.

Filing False Documents and Related Crimes

California law has some offenses that are closely related to PC 115. The most common of these are:

PC 368, Senior Fraud

You commit senior fraud if you defraud or attempt to defraud a senior ( an adult aged 65 or older). The offense is also considered to be committing financial abuse against older people. If you file a false document intending to defraud an elderly person, the prosecutor can file two separate charges under PC 115 and PC 368. You will likely receive two penalties upon conviction, which you must serve consecutively.

Senior fraud is a wobbler offense, meaning the prosecutor can charge it as a felony or misdemeanor. If the property on which you intend to defraud older people is valued at $950 or more, the prosecutor can file felony charges. A conviction can result in up to four years in prison.

Forgery, PC 470

You commit forgery when you alter a valid document with fraudulent intent. You can do so in many ways, including signing someone else’s name on a legal document, faking another person’s signature or handwriting, falsifying or altering legal documents, and faking or falsifying a financial statement and passing it as genuine.

If you do anything on a document required for recording in a public office, the prosecutor can file two separate charges against you under PC 115 and PC 470. You will likely receive two separate penalties if convicted of the two crimes.

Find a Skilled Criminal Lawyer Near Me

Do you or someone you love face criminal charges for filing a false document in a public office in Monterey?

You could spend a very long time in prison and pay a hefty fine, among other life-altering consequences, if convicted under PC 115. However, a skilled criminal attorney can help you avoid a conviction or obtain a favorable outcome for your case.

Our team of aggressive criminal attorneys at Monterey Criminal Attorney has extensive experience handling white-collar crimes. Thus, we have the skills and knowledge to help you through all legal processes and fight for the best possible outcome. We can use the best defense strategies and protect your rights against the charges. Contact us at 831-574-1791 to better understand your charges, legal options, and our services.