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Filing a False Document

Filing a False or Forged Document – California Penal Code 115

California Penal Code Section 115 defines the crime of filing a false or forged document. It's simply described as knowingly filing a forged or false document with a California government office.

Penal Code 115 is considered a white collar fraud crime that often involves the act of filing a false or forged real estate deed – making it a common charge for mortgage fraud cases – but it also includes many other types of legal documents.

The type of documents in a PC 115 case includes anything filed in a public office, like immigration documents, tax returns, bail bond, and others.

A common example of a PC 115 charge includes a situation where you forge a property transfer deed that claims you purchased the home from a family member. You take the forged deed and file it with the county recorder's office.

Next, you obtain a huge loan using the home as collateral. In this scenario, you could face charges for PC 115 filing a false document, and mortgage fraud charges.

Penal Code 115 is a felony crime that could result in severe penalties if convicted. It should be noted that in order for a prosecutor to convict you – they have the burden of proof to show you knew the document was false or forged when it was filed.

To give readers a better understanding of filing a false or forged document in violation of Penal Code 115, our criminal lawyers are proving an overview below.

Definition of PC 115 Filing a False Document

California Penal Code 115 PC defines filing a false document:

Any person who knowingly procures or offers a false or forged instrument to be filed, registered or recorded in any California public office, which instrument, if genuine, might be filed, registered or recorded under California law, or of the United States, is guilty of a felony crime.

To “offer” simply means to present or cause a document to a filed at a government agency – but it's not required that it was successfully filed to be convicted. Again, Penal Code 115 covers a wide range of document types that are filed at a California government office.

As stated, the most common type of documents filed in a PC 115 case are mortgage loan fraud related – like real estate title deeds or deeds of trust. Other types of documents include bank account records, passports, identification cards, birth certificates, bail bonds, tax returns, immigration documents, and court documents.

In order for a prosecutor to secure a conviction for PC 115 filing a false document, they have to prove all the factors in the case – known as the elements of the crime – listed under CALCRIM 1945 Jury Instructions:

  • You offered a false document to be filed or registered, or
  • You caused a false document to be filed or registered
  • The false document was filed in a public office in California or United States
  • You knew the document was false or forged

As stated, it's important to note again that even in a situation where false or forged document doesn't actually get filed, you could still be convicted. In other words, just an attempt is sufficient.

The primary factor that has to be proven is you knowingly altered or misrepresented information with the intent to defraud.

What the PC 115 Penalties?

If convicted of PC 115 filing a false document, you are guilty of a felony crime, and facing the following penalties:

  • Up to three years in a California state prison
  • A fine up to $10,000
  • Formal felony probation

You could be charged with separate felony counts of filing a false or forged document for each document. If you have prior PC 115 convictions, or the victim lost over $100,000, you won't be eligible for probation.

Sentencing Enhancements

A Penal Code 115 conviction could include a sentence enhancement. For instance, if the false document affected a family home mortgage, you could face an additional fine up to $75,000.

If your crime deprived a victim of over $65,000 loss – and the prosecutor is able to prove you had an intent to cause the loss – you could face an additional one to four years in prison.

There is also an aggravated white collar crime sentencing enhancement that applies when your felony crime reveals a pattern of criminal conduct –  were committed against two or more victims – convicted of two or more felony crimes of fraud/embezzlement – unlawful conduct deprived the victim of over $100,000. This enhancement could lead to an additional one to five 5 years in prison, a fine up $500,000, or twice the amount of fraud.

Penal Code 115 filing false documents with the specific intent to defraud is also considered a crime involving moral turpitude – meaning undocumented immigrants could be deported.

Related California Offenses for Penal Code 115

Penal Code 470 – Forgery
Penal Code 118 – Perjury
Penal Code 487 – Grand Theft
Penal Code 368 – Senior Fraud

Fighting Filing a False or Forged Document Charges

Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers could use a variety of strategies against your PC 115 filing a false document charges in order to obtain the best possible outcome. We have a track record of success dealing with all types of fraud related crimes.

We will first closely examine all the specific details to determine best options. Common defenses for Penal Code 115 charges include:

No intent to Defraud

Recall a primary factor in the elements of the crime above. The prosecutor has to show you acted willfully with an intent to defraud. We might be able to argue there was never a specific intent to defraud anyone – rather it simply a mistake – known as a “mistake of fact” defense.

Accident Defense

There are often several drafts documents prepared before a formal official filing in a public office. We may be able to argue to you accidentally picked up and filed the wrong draft copy rather than intended official document – meaning it was not an intentional act.


Penal Code 115 cases often involve an allegation that you deceived a homeowner into signing a property deed, but it may not have been an unlawful act. We might be able to argue the homeowner gave initial consent for signing and then later filing the deed, but they forgot about their consent or decided later to withdraw it.

If you were charged with filing a false document under California Penal Code 115, call our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys to take a close look at the details and options. We have a long record of success defending clients against any type of fraud related crime.

Cron, Israels & Stark is a highly experienced criminal defense law firm located at 11755 Wilshire Blvd, 15th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90025. Call us for a free case evaluation at (424) 372-3112.

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