Criminal Law

Subtle Forgery Distinction

Not all forgery is the same. In People v. Martinez, case no. E042427 (4th Dist.. Apr. 2, 2008), the court of appeal reverses the conviction on one of two forgery counts, notwithstanding two forged signatures, because the signatures appear on the same instrument. Defendant fraudulently induced a homeowner to sign a deed of trust and forged a notary signature on the same deed — two forged signatures, same document. He recorded the deed. Defendant was convicted of two counts of forgery.

The key here is that the defendant was charged with the two counts of forgery under Penal Code section 470, subdivision (d), which provides that:

Every person who, with the intent to defraud, falsely makes, alters, forges, or counterfeits, utters, publishes, passes or attempts or offers to pass, as true and genuine, any of the following items, knowing the same to be false, altered, forged, or counterfeited, is guilty of forgery: any check, bond, bank bill, or note, cashier’s check, traveler’s check, money order, post note, [etc.].

Unlike Section 470, subdivisions (a) or (b), which premise guilt on signing the signature of another or forging the seal or signature of another, subdivision (d) premises guilt on passing a forged instrument. Since there was only one instrument here, there can be a conviction for only one count.

It is worth noting that the court cited 2 cases from the 1800s at the outset of its analysis. When it comes to case law, it isn’t bad just because it’s old!