Occasionally, you should file documents with a public office within California. The law requires you to file truthful and authentic documents. Otherwise, you will be charged with a PC 115, a felony with life-altering penalties. After learning of the police investigation, you should contact the skilled lawyers at Chula Vista Criminal Attorney. Since every case is unique, we can thoroughly investigate your case to develop the best defense and fight for your rights. We can help you respond to government investigations and fight to get the case reduced or dismissed altogether. We can aggressively defend you in court if the defense and the prosecutor cannot resolve the issues amicably.  

Defining PC 115

California Penal Code 115 makes it unlawful to intentionally register, file, or record counterfeit or forged documents in a public authority with the state. 

Before convicting a defendant, the prosecution should verify the following facts of this offense beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The accused offered an official document for recording, bringing with a government authority or registration
  • The defendant knew that they were filing a false document
  • If accurate, the accused would have lawfully filed the document

Offering a Document for Filing

Per PC 115, “offering” means submitting a document to a public office for recording, registration, or filing.

You could be sentenced for this crime even if you never registered the documents, recorded them, or brought them with a public agency.

Moreover, you can violate this statute even when you do not bring the false documents yourself. Causing the documents to be recorded, registered, or filed is enough to convict you.

You Were Aware the Documents were Counterfeit or False

The prosecution must also prove the documents were forged or fake. Because it can be challenging to establish individuals' intent, the prosecutor will rely on circumstantial evidence to verify the element. Your experienced criminal defense attorney can attack the case's merits against you.

Forged or Counterfeit Documents

This statute applies to forged or fake documents that have details that either:

  • The government is permitted or obligated by the law to depend on, or
  • Impacts a third party’s rights regarding government regulations or laws so that they can bring it in a public agency

Generally, most PC 115 crimes involve filing real estate property-related documents like deeds of trusts, property deeds, and quitclaim deeds. The crime can also happen with any form of transaction and documents, including:

  • Lien for money
  • Fishing records
  • Personal checks
  • Bail bonds
  • Bank account records
  • Identification cards
  • Birth certificates
  • Immigration documents like passports and visa
  • Tax returns and income statements

Penalties for Breaking PC 115

If convicted of this crime, you will face a felony that attracts the following potential penalties:

  • A three-year sentence in prison or jail
  • Up to $10,000 in fine

Sometimes the judge can award the defendant a felony probation instead of confinement. Nonetheless, you do not qualify for probation if one of the statements below is accurate:

  • You have at one PC 115 conviction and caused a one-hundred-thousand-dollars loss, or
  • You were previously convicted of PC 115

Sentencing Enhancement

You are subject to aggravated enhancement if the statements below are correct:

  • You are sentenced for more than two California felonies involving fraud or embezzlement under PC 503 (one of which could be Penal Code 115) in a proceeding
  • The felonies form a criminal conduct pattern
  • You committed the crime either against an alleged victim in more than two separate instances or against two different alleged victims
  • The conduct resulted in depriving the victim(s) of more than one hundred thousand dollars

Typically, the sentencing enhancement can cause the following penalties:

  • An additional five years in prison, or
  • An added fine of twice the amount defrauded or $500,000 (whichever is more)

A Conviction Can Negatively Affect Firearm Rights

California law makes it illegal for convicted felons to purchase, possess, or use a firearm. Since violation of filing false documents law is charged as a felony, its conviction will result in losing your gun rights.

Adverse Immigration Penalties and Consequences

The crime in question is a crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT). Therefore, an immigrant might be deported or marked as inadmissible if convicted.

You Cannot Expunge the PC 115 Conviction?

Expungement allows you to withdraw your no-contest or guilty plea and have the criminal case dismissed, releasing you of several negative consequences of a criminal conviction. It gives defendants a new start after their conviction, making securing employment, housing, educational opportunities, and obtaining state professional licenses easier.

However, you do not qualify for expungement if you served time in state prison.

Fighting PC 115 Criminal Charges

Although PC 115 carries severe penalties affecting your life, finances, career, and freedom, many defenses exist to fight your criminal charges. The defense lawyer should collect and analyze evidence to develop the most viable legal defense and options to achieve the best possible case outcome. These defenses include the following:

False Accusations

False accusations are not an uncommon phenomenon. Typical reasons individuals raise a false allegation of PC 115 include seeking vengeance, property disputes, or family battles. The accuser can also misidentify you for breaking the law or make a mistake while recalling the case facts.

Your skilled defense attorney should raise the defense that you are being unjustly blamed.

The Defendant Had the Alleged Victim’s or Government’s Consent to Bring these Documents

Typically, prosecutors file a PC 115 charge when they think the defendants forged the document or deceived the property owners into signing over real estate deeds. The prosecution might be doubtful because the asset owner might be sick, disabled, elderly, or unsophisticated.

Nevertheless, the property owner could have forgotten that they transferred their title to the accused or even changed their mind. They can, therefore, claim to be victims instead of holding up their end of the bargain.

To fight these charges, you should present evidence that you had approval when you drafted the document.

No Knowledge

One element of this crime is providing a document for filing that you knew was forged or false. In other words, it is an effective defense to prove you did not know.

No California Public Office

You would violate PC 115 if you submitted your fake documents for processing at a government office within the state. Consequently, it can be your legal strategy to demonstrate that you did not offer the documents to a government agency or claim you presented them to a private establishment or employer.

While this defense can be successful, you might be convicted of another crime.

Fighting False Allegations

False accusations can alter your life, freedom, and future. Most people think the California court system will reveal the truth as the case proceeds. However, that is not always the case, and you must properly defend yourself. If you are facing false accusations, taking the following steps can allow you to clear your name.

Remain Calm

Facing false allegations can be overwhelming, and attempting to defend yourself is natural. Nevertheless, rashly and angrily responding to false allegations or engaging in irrational conduct can hurt the criminal case. Even if you feel justified in defending yourself, it will give the accuser more proof to use against you.

If you are charged with PC 115, you should remain calm and consider your reaction. Only talk to police officers or answer their questions if your lawyer is present. The law enforcers are trained and skilled in eliciting confessions from people, even false ones.

Engage a Qualified Defense Attorney

While you can fight the false allegations alone, it will be easier when you have legal representation. Your lawyer is well acquainted with California laws and can use this knowledge to your advantage. They have previously handled similar cases and know how to develop the most effective strategy to fight for your rights.

Sometimes suspects wait too long to hire a defense lawyer because they are worried about huge attorney’s fees or believe they can deal with the matter alone. You should start collecting evidence and building your case immediately. You risk losing evidence and time if you hesitate to engage legal counsel. Witnesses can forget the exact case facts or might be unavailable to testify. The earlier you discuss the case with your lawyer, the better your chances are of obtaining favorable outcomes.

Collect Evidence

Next, you should collect as much evidence as possible to help your attorney in the defense.

You can start by creating a list of potential witnesses who might have information about your relationship with the accuser or the false allegations. Remember to include witnesses with potentially damaging testimonies.

If you and the accuser communicated via text or email, print your messages and present the copies to your defense attorney. Ensure the copies indicate the time and date of your communication. 

Impeach Your Accuser

Impeaching your accuser means presenting evidence or asking a question that undermines your accuser’s credibility. Typically, this happens during trial proceedings during cross-examination. Your attorney will ask the witness if they understand the facts that poorly reflect your accuser’s standing for truthfulness.

Also, impeaching can involve presenting evidence that the accuser is unknowledgeable or untruthful about the topic.

Seek Compensation for False Accusations

It is a crime to make false accusations against another in California. You can seek monetary compensation by bringing a defamation lawsuit against your accuser, depending on the circumstances of your case. Defamation is any verbal or written statement that intentionally harms another person’s character. The law seeks to protect businesses and people from wrongful allegations that destroy their reputations.

In this case, you should file a civil lawsuit against your accuser and prove the following things:

  • Your accuser filed a claim against you
  • They filed the claim to harass you, and
  • You suffered damages as a result.

If you establish these statements and you are proven innocent, you can receive compensatory damages that might include the following:

  • Non-economic damages like embarrassment and damaged reputation
  • Economic damages like attorney fees

Know Your Miranda Rights

Any person that has watched a police-related drama on TV shows has probably heard of Miranda rights.

Miranda rights are named after the United States Supreme Court case where Ernesto Miranda was arrested for stealing money from a bank employee. After two hours of police questioning, Miranda confessed to robbery, rape, and kidnapping. Since the police did not advise him of his rights, he confessed and was found guilty. When he appealed his conviction, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the police could not have used his confession against him had he been advised of his constitutional rights.

Below is the standard Miranda warning, “You have a right to remain silent. Anything you say will be used against you in court. You have a right to consult an attorney, and if you cannot afford legal representation, the government will provide you with a public defender at its expense.”

Law enforcers should read the Miranda warning whenever interrogating a person in police custody. The interrogation goes beyond questioning. It also includes conduct or words the officers should know are reasonably likely to elicit incriminating responses. On the other hand, “being in police custody” defines a state in which a reasonable individual in your shoes would not be free to leave.

You Should Assert Your Right to Remain Silent

The United States Supreme Court holds that under certain circumstances, the prosecution can use an out-of-custody defendant’s silence related to police questioning as proof of guilt. The most effective way to stop the prosecution from introducing proof of your silence at trial is to assert (invoke) your right to remain silent.

While there are no specific words to assert your right against self-incrimination, you can stop police questioning by saying something like:

  • “I invoke my entitlement against self-incrimination.”
  • “I do not want to speak with you. I want to talk to my lawyer.”

What Happens If the Police Officer Fails to Read Your Miranda Warning?

Without warning, whatever you say regarding your custodial questioning, the police cannot use it as evidence at your trial. The exclusionary rule deters law enforcers from questioning suspects without first informing them of their constitutional rights.

However, that does not mean un-Mirandized statements are off-limits in criminal cases. Some exceptions assume that statements should be inadmissible in court due to a Miranda violation. These exemptions include the following:

  • Impeachment — If your testimony at trial differs from your statements to the police, the prosecution can provide statements elicited in the Miranda violation to impeach your credibility.
  • For sentencing purposes — In most jurisdictions, prosecutors can offer statements acquired in Miranda violation against suspects in sentencing proceedings. Assuming, in an illegally obtained statement, the accused confesses to the arresting police officers that they filed forged documents. While the accused’s confession might be inadmissible to establish their guilt at trial, the prosecutor can use it as proof during sentencing to acquire a more severe sentence and penalties.
  • Discovery of physical proof — The prosecution can use any physical proof, whether dangerous or not, that a law enforcer discovers through questioning that breaks Miranda against you in court.
  • Discovery of witnesses— If statements taken in Miranda violation lead police officers to witnesses, the witnesses could testify against you at trial.
  • Inevitable discovery rule— If the officers would have finally found physical evidence on their own, the proof can be used against you at trial even when the officer found out about it during questioning that broke Miranda.

Understanding Plea Bargain

A plea bargain is an agreement between the prosecutor and the defendant where the defendant pleads no contest or guilty. In return, the prosecutor drops the criminal charges, reduces the charges, or recommends a specific sentence.

Judges and prosecutors are pressured to move criminal cases quickly through the California judicial system when criminal courts become more crowded. Generally, trials take weeks or months to complete, while plea bargains are arranged in hours. Additionally, trial outcomes are unpredictable, whereas a plea bargain offers the defendant’s defense lawyer and the prosecution control over the outcome.

As a result, plea bargaining is common, and very few criminal cases end up in trials.

There are two types of plea bargaining, namely:

  • Charge bargaining — The prosecutor drops some criminal charges or reduces the charge to a less severe crime after pleading no contest or guilty.
  • Sentence bargaining — The prosecutor recommends a lighter sentence for specific criminal charges.

Benefits of Accepting a Plea Bargain Offer

The obvious benefit of accepting a plea bargain offer is being subjected to a less severe sentence for lenient criminal charges than might be faced after proceeding to trial and losing the case.

Other benefits of pleading guilty include the following:

  • You will save money — If represented by a private criminal defense attorney, you can significantly save on attorney’s fees by taking a plea offer. It is more time-consuming and tasking to take the matter to trial.
  • You will get out of detention faster — Defendants held in police custody who cannot afford bail, have been denied bail, or are not eligible for their own recognizance release can secure their release immediately after your plea bargain negotiations. The accused can be released on probation or with community service responsibilities. And if the defendant should serve time, they will be released sooner than if they proceeded to trial.
  • Your criminal record will have less serious or fewer crimes — Pleading no contest or guilty in return for a reduction in the seriousness of the crime or number of criminal charges looks better on your criminal record than a conviction resulting from a trial. It is particularly essential if you are subsequently convicted.
  • Help you avoid publicity — Persons who depend on their reputation to make a living and individuals who do not want to embarrass their families can plead no contest or guilty to maintain a low profile. Although the news of a plea can be public, they are short-lived compared to trial news. Also, the defendant’s background is occasionally explored during plea bargaining negotiations to the degree it is conducted at trial.

Should You Accept the Prosecutor’s Plea Bargain Offer or Proceed to Trial?

Given the overwhelming nature of a criminal prosecution, it can be tempting to bring the suffering to an end by accepting the plea offer. Although the prosecutor’s offer might seem appealing, they are government employees uninterested in your interests. Typically, prosecutors agree to plea bargains to reduce their workload or when they believe they could lose at trial.

Consequently, you should analyze whether the offer is in your best interest. A conviction carries many criminal penalties and collateral consequences.

Also, going to trial could be the only way to secure justice for an innocent person. The prosecution should establish all elements of PC 115 beyond any reasonable doubt. If the case proceeds to trial, the defense attorney should persuade the jury that the prosecutor did not satisfy the burden to obtain an acquittal.

Your criminal defense attorney should evaluate the facts of the case, including its strength, the harm you caused, your behavior’s impact, and potential penalties. Then they should explain the available options and their likely consequences, allowing you to make informed decisions.   

Find a Skilled White-Collar Offense Defense Lawyer Near Me

If charged with PC 115, do not take the matter lightly. The police will thoroughly investigate your case, and the possibility of a conviction is real. If convicted, you could serve time and pay huge fines. The felony conviction can also follow you even after incarceration, affecting your ability to work in specific fields, own a firearm, find good housing, and destroy your reputation. Time is of the essence, and you should fight for your life, career, finances, freedom, and future. The experienced team at Chula Vista Criminal Attorney understands the intricacy of these criminal charges and can fight diligently for your life, protect your rights, and offer the best representation possible under the circumstances. We can inform you of the legal process and work closely with you until the case is closed.

The earlier you contact us, the sooner we can build your defense. Get started by contacting us at 619-877-6894.