In California, possession of a counterfeit item is either a misdemeanor or felony dependent on the case's specific facts. The maximum sentence you may face if a court convicts you of this crime is three years in jail.
If prosecutors charge you with this offense, you will need to seek the assistance of an attorney. There may be defense available in your case or other options for minimizing the impact of the charges or a conviction on your life.
Understanding Penal Code 475
Penal Code 475 details California's law against possession of counterfeit items. The statute outlaws possessing and receiving forged, altered, or counterfeit items. Under 475 PC, it is illegal to use these items to defraud an individual if you know that they are altered, counterfeit, or forged.
An example of this crime would be possessing an incomplete check that belongs to another person and intending to use it by completing the document and making a payment. Other documents that might be involved would include money orders or traveler's checks. If you come across someone's incomplete money order, fill it in, and use it to make a purchase, your actions would violate PC 475.
Not every case is entirely clear-cut. Depending on the facts involved, there are often defenses against these charges. However, it is essential to remember that convictions for violating 475 PC can lead to severe penalties, including prison time.
Sentencing and Penalties for 475 PC
If a court finds you guilty of violating 475 PC, you might face a misdemeanor or a felony conviction. If the prosecutor tries your offense as a misdemeanor, the maximum imprisonment period will be one year. Courts will often offer a lesser penalty, such as summary probation, in less severe cases. You will want to discuss this possibility with your attorney.
In the case of a felony, you could face up to three years in county jail. Even in felony cases, judges will sometimes allow the defendant to face formal probation rather than time in prison. Formal probation is an option that will only apply in some instances. For example, if you have a criminal history or committed a particularly egregious offense, a judge is unlikely to order probation in lieu of jail time.
The probation period will likely last a matter of years in the case of nonviolent crimes. You will have to follow all of the conditions of your probation, including reporting to a probation officer and paying restitution if ordered. Violating formal probation can lead to modifications and harsher sentencing terms or even revoking the probation and ordering a sentence in jail.
Defending Against Charges for Penal Code 475
There are several common defenses attorneys may use if their client is facing charges under PC 475. One possible defense would be to state that you did not have knowledge that the item was a forgery. This defense only applies if you can demonstrate that you did not know the item is a forgery before you attempted to pass it as authentic.
Another possible defense is that you did not intend to defraud. If you accidentally used the item or otherwise lacked intent, your attorney might argue that your actions do not meet the necessary elements of the crime.
In other cases, it might be that the accusations are false. Investigators can make mistakes, and the prosecutor in your case will need to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Beyond a reasonable doubt is a high burden to meet, and in many cases, prosecutors will not have ample evidence to convict a defendant.
There are certain situations where attempting to defend against the charges might not be the best course of action. Your attorney may suggest that you plead to a lesser offense or negotiate a deal to avoid the worst potential consequences of a conviction. It is impossible to state the correct course of action without thoroughly assessing all of the facts of the case. You will need to have detailed conversations with your lawyer to develop a case strategy.
Similar Charges to PC 475
Some charges similar to possession of counterfeit items include counterfeit marks, counterfeit seals, and forgery. Each of these offenses has its own elements and potential penalties.
California details the crime of counterfeit marks in Penal Code 350. That law makes it illegal to sell, possess for sale, manufacture any counterfeit trademarks. This crime may also be a misdemeanor or a felony.
California defines counterfeit seals as a crime Penal Code 472. This offense pertains to forgeries of public seals. Forging a California State seal on an official document, such as a driver's license, is an example of a violation of PC 472. Again, violations of PC 472 might lead to misdemeanor or felony charges.
Forgery's definition is in California Penal Code 470. A person commits forgery when they:
The penalties will range for this crime and depend on whether the court charges you with a felony or a misdemeanor.
Speak to an Attorney About Defending Against Charges for PC 475
Facing criminal charges is a serious situation. Whether you are the suspect or someone you love is facing these accusations, you should speak to an experienced California criminal defense attorney at The H Law Group.