Penal Code 475 PC | Possession of Counterfeit Items

Penal Code 475 PC | Possession of Counterfeit Items

Being accused of possessing counterfeit items can be scary. But don’t worry – this article will explain everything you need to know about California’s law against possessing counterfeit items (Penal Code 475 PC). We’ll cover what’s illegal, what the penalties are, and potential defenses that could help you fight the charges.

What is Penal Code 475 PC?

Penal Code 475 PC is California’s law against possessing counterfeit items or forgery tools. Under this law, it’s illegal to possess, sell, or buy counterfeit items with the intent to defraud another person. Some examples of counterfeit items include:

  • Fake designer clothes or handbags
  • Pirated movies or music
  • Counterfeit money
  • Fake IDs

This law also bans possessing tools used to make counterfeit items, like software for making fake IDs or equipment to print counterfeit money. So even just having tools to make fake stuff is against the law.

What Are the Penalties?

Possessing counterfeit items is a California wobbler offense. This means it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony, at the prosecutor’s discretion.

If charged as a misdemeanor, the penalties can include:

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

If charged as a felony, the penalties increase to:

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

In addition to criminal penalties, the court can order you to pay restitution to any victims who suffered financial loss. For example, if you sold counterfeit designer purses, you may have to pay restitution to the brand company for lost profits.

Legal Defenses

If you’re facing charges under PC 475, don’t lose hope. Here are some legal defenses that could help you fight the accusations:

You Didn’t Know the Items Were Counterfeit

An essential element of this crime is knowing the items are counterfeit. The prosecutor must prove you knew – or reasonably should have known – the items were fake. So if you genuinely didn’t know, you aren’t guilty.

For example, let’s say you purchased designer handbags at a deep discount from an online seller. If you had no reason to think the bags were counterfeit, you aren’t criminally liable.

You Didn’t Intend to Defraud Anyone

This law also requires an intent to defraud another person. If you never planned to re-sell the items or trick anyone, you aren’t guilty.

For example, if you bought pirated movies just for personal use, you didn’t have intent to defraud the movie studio. Lack of fraudulent intent is a valid defense.

The Items Weren’t Really Counterfeit

The prosecutor must prove the items were definitively counterfeit. If testing reveals the items were authentic, you should be found not guilty.

Let’s say you imported designer watches from overseas to sell in California. If examination shows the watches are genuine, you aren’t criminally liable.

You Have a Prescription

It’s not illegal to possess counterfeit items if you have a valid prescription. This applies in cases involving counterfeit prescription drugs.

For example, if you import counterfeit Viagra from Mexico because you have an erectile dysfunction prescription, you have a defense to possession charges.

Related Offenses

Here are some other counterfeiting and forgery crimes in California’s penal code:

  • PC 470 – Forgery
  • PC 476 – Writing Bad Checks
  • PC 476a – Making or Passing Fictitious Bills
  • PC 480 – Possessing or Receiving Stolen Property

These crimes have similar elements but involve different types of fraud. You can face multiple charges if your case involves various forms of counterfeiting or forgery.


Getting charged with possessing counterfeit items can have serious consequences. But having an experienced California criminal defense lawyer on your side can make all the difference.

A skilled attorney will thoroughly examine the evidence and look for ways to challenge the prosecution’s case. They may be able to get charges reduced or dismissed through effective negotiation or by raising doubts at a trial.

Don’t take chances with your future. If you’ve been accused of violating PC 475 involving counterfeit items, contact a dedicated defense lawyer today.