Penal Code 472 PC | Forgery or Counterfeit of a Public or Corporate Seal

California Penal Code 472 PC – Forgery or Counterfeit of a Public or Corporate Seal

California Penal Code 472 PC makes it a crime to forge, counterfeit, or possess a fraudulent public seal or emblem. This law prohibits the unauthorized creation, copying, or possession of seals or emblems used by government agencies or officials. Violating PC 472 can lead to misdemeanor or felony charges, depending on the circumstances.

What is Illegal Under California PC 472?

There are three ways to violate Penal Code 472:

  • Forging a public seal or emblem
  • Counterfeiting a public seal or emblem
  • Possessing a fraudulent public seal or emblem

“Forging” means creating a fake or replica seal from scratch. “Counterfeiting” means copying or replicating an existing seal. Either act requires proof you intended to use the forged or counterfeit seal to defraud others.

“Possession” makes it illegal to knowingly have a forged public seal in your ownership or control. Prosecutors don’t need to prove you had intent to defraud someone.

What is a Public Seal or Emblem?

A “public seal” under PC 472 refers to an official symbol used by a government agency or public official to mark documents. Public seals certify the authenticity and authority of government-issued records, licenses, orders, certificates, etc. They help prevent forgery or tampering.

Some examples of public seals include:

  • The official seal of the State of California
  • The seal of a city, county, or local government agency
  • The seal of a court of law
  • The seal of a public university
  • The seal of a notary public
  • The seal of a corporation

To convict someone of forging or counterfeiting a public seal, prosecutors must prove the person intended to use the fake seal to commit fraud.

Fraud means deceiving or misleading someone for unlawful gain. For example, a person who:

  • Forges the county clerk’s seal on a fake marriage certificate to get immigration benefits.
  • Uses a counterfeit notary stamp to backdate a deed transfer document.
  • Attaches a phony state seal to a fake driver’s license.

Without evidence you planned to use the forged seal fraudulently, you can’t be convicted under the first two parts of PC 472. But possessing a fake seal is illegal, even without intent to defraud.

Penalties for Violating California PC 472

Forging, counterfeiting, or possessing a fraudulent public seal is a wobbler offense under California law. It can be filed as a misdemeanor or felony, at the prosecutor’s discretion.

Misdemeanor Charges

Misdemeanor convictions for violating Penal Code 472 carry:

  • Up to 1 year in county jail
  • Fines up to $1,000
  • Informal probation

Felony Charges

Felony convictions can lead to:

  • 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in state prison
  • Fines up to $10,000
  • Formal probation

Factors that can increase charges to a felony include having a prior record, committing identity theft, or forging multiple seals as part of a larger fraud scheme.

Common Defenses

Common defenses against California PC 472 charges include:

  • No intent to defraud – Forging or counterfeiting charges require prosecutors to prove you planned to commit fraud. Without evidence of fraudulent intent, a forgery charge should be dismissed.
  • No knowledge – Possessing a fraudulent public seal is only a crime if you knew the seal was forged. For example, if someone slips a fake seal into your briefcase without your knowledge.
  • Authorized use – It’s not forgery if you had permission to use a legitimate public seal, like from your government employer.
  • Parody – The First Amendment protects satirical or parodic depictions of public seals that aren’t meant to deceive.

An experienced criminal defense attorney can evaluate the evidence and build an effective defense to challenge your charges.

Recent Cases of California PC 472 Violations

Here are some notable examples of fraudulent public seal charges in California news:

  • An Orange County CEO was arrested for allegedly forging state and university seals to back phony businesses and swindle over $100 million from investors.
  • A former notary public was charged with forgery for falsely notarizing a woman’s signature on an illegal deed transfer document.
  • A Los Angeles man was indicted for allegedly forging the U.S. Department of State seal on fake visa documents to smuggle people into the country.

These cases show how violating PC 472 erodes public trust in vital institutions that communities rely on daily.

Legal Defenses to PC 472 Charges

Here are some common legal defenses a criminal defense lawyer may use:

  • Lack of intent – Prosecutors must prove you intended to use the forged seal to defraud someone. If you had no intent to commit fraud, you should not be convicted.
  • No knowledge – Possessing a fraudulent seal is only illegal if you knew it was forged. For example, if someone slipped it into your briefcase without your knowledge.
  • Authorized use – Using a legitimate seal given to you by an employer or agency would not be considered forgery.
  • Parody – The First Amendment protects satirical depictions of seals that are not intended to deceive.
  • Unlawful search – If police obtained evidence through an illegal search, it may be excluded.
  • False accusations – You may be falsely accused by someone attempting to avoid their own charges.

An experienced criminal defense lawyer can review the evidence against you and build the strongest defense to fight the charges.

Consequences of a Conviction

Being convicted under PC 472 can result in:

  • Jail or prison time
  • Fines up to $10,000
  • A criminal record
  • Loss of professional licenses
  • Difficulty finding employment
  • Immigration consequences if not a U.S. citizen

The penalties can be severe, so retaining an attorney to protect your rights is critical. An attorney may be able to get charges reduced or dismissed through effective negotiations.


California Penal Code 472 makes it illegal to forge, counterfeit or possess fraudulent government seals and emblems. Violating this law can lead to felony charges and years in prison. But with an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side, many of these charges can be successfully challenged in court. If you are facing accusations of violating PC 472, don’t leave your freedom to chance. Contact a lawyer immediately to start building your strongest defense today.