Check Fraud
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What are the legal defenses as well as potential penalties resulting from a check fraud conviction

With Penal Code 476, the California law prohibits anyone from writing, making, or passing a fake or fraudulent check. Check fraud is a wobbler offense that can be filed either as a misdemeanor or felony, and it carries a maximum prison sentence of up to three years.

Some examples of this crime include:

  • Generating a fake check.
  • Changing the number of dollars written on a check.
  • Forging the name of the payor that’s listed on the check. 

In the United States, check fraud is pretty common, and there are so many different types of it that it’s difficult to figure out how many people get affected or how much money is lost. In some cases, you may not have intended to use a fraudulent check, and so you can become falsely accused of violating Penal Code 476. 

Below, we will take a look at the potential charges you face if charged with check fraud, as well as some of the defenses that can be used to get you out of this situation. 

What Are The Actual Penalties for Violating Penal Code 476? 

Anyone who violates this statute of the California law has committed the crime of forgery. Under California law, it’s categorized as a wobbler offense, which means that it can either get charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor by the prosecutor. How the crime gets charged typically depends on the details of the case, as well as the criminal history of the person being convicted. 

Typically, misdemeanors carry less severe penalties and, in this particular case, can result in up to one year in county jail and/or a maximum fine of $1,000. On the other hand, felonies have much harsher consequences and can result in up to three years in county jail and/or a maximum fine of $10,000. 

What Are The Defenses to Penal Code 476?

There are a ton of ways to avoid punishments for checking fraud allegations. Any experienced criminal defense lawyer can raise particular defenses depending on the details of the case, which, if presented well, can lead to the charges being either completely dropped or, at the very least, dramatically reduced. 

That being said, three commonly used defenses include:

  • There was no intent to defraud.
  • There’s consent to make changes to the check.
  • No knowledge that the check was fraudulent.
No Intent to Defraud 

A person can only be found guilty under this section of the penal code if they acted with the intent to defraud. This means that the defense of the accused can bring evidence to support the notion that he did not have any intent. 

Consent to Make Changes to a Check

While making changes to a check is still considered a crime, the defendant is not guilty if: 

  • A person received permission from the party responsible for the check or bill 
  • A person acted with permission

Consent remains a valid defense. 

No Knowledge that the Check was Bad  

The defendant is only guilty under Penal Code 476 if they knew that the check was altered or false. That means that the accused is entirely innocent if they did not have this knowledge and, for example, got the check by accident or it was handed to them by someone else. 

Regardless of the classification of the offense, it is important that you seek the assistance of competent legal counsel to help you best understand your legal defense while identifying an outcome that best minimizes your risk. We here at the H Law group patiently await your call.

H Law Group Online

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