Penal Code 134 | Preparing False Evidence

Every person guilty of preparing any false or ante-dated book, paper, record, instrument in writing, or other matter or thing, with intent to produce it, or allow it to be produced for any fraudulent or deceitful purpose, as genuine or true, upon any trial, proceeding, or inquiry whatever, authorized by law, is guilty of felony.

Under the California Penal Code sectio 134 pc, the offense entails preparing any false matter or thing (as will be defined below) with intent that it would be used for a fraudulent purpose at any legal proceeding and/or upon any inquiry authorized by law.

How Does The Prosecutor Prove You Prepared False Evidence?

To prove that you are guilty of this offense, the prosecutor has to prove the following facts or elements:1

(a)   Preparing a false matter or thing23

(b)  With intent to produce it or allow it to be produced4

(c)   For any fraudulent or deceitful purpose5

Example 

Mike prepared a fake pink slip and presenting it to a DMV officer to prove ownership of a vehicle that does not lawfully belong to him.  Because he prepared the slip to deceive the DMV about the ownership of the vehicle, he could be charged with the offense.  However, distinguish this from a situation where Mike took a pink slip to the DMV and inserted the name “Santa Clause” under his first and last name.  In this latter situation, although the information he provided is false (because his real name is not Santa Clause), his purpose was obviously not to deceive others but to either annoy or to play a joke.  Therefore he could not be charged with the offense.

Example

You present as evidence a photograph that you claim to be a depiction of the total physical damage to your car after the accident at issue, but it is in fact a photograph of your friend’s car that looks identical to yours.  The friend’s car sustained severe body damage last year in the amount of $25,000.  The only damage your car really sustained in the accident is that your bumper fell off.  Although the photograph you presented is true on its face, because it is being offered to prove the damage that your car sustained in the collision, it is false evidence, because the photograph depicts your friend’s car.  Therefore you could be charged with the offense.

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Who Can Be Charged With Preparing False Evidence?

You cannot be charged with the offense unless you prepared any false or ante-dated book, paper, record, instrument in writing, or other matter or thing.  You also have to have intent to produce it, or allow it to be produced for any fraudulent or deceitful purpose, as genuine or true.

How Can You Fight Being Charged with Preparing False Evidence?

Lack of intent:  Because one of the elements the prosecutor has to prove is that you had intent to produce the false evidence, if you can show that you had no such intent, you cannot  be charged with the offense.  Again, as mentioned above, preparing the false evidence alone is not enough for a conviction.  The prosecution has to prove that you prepared the false evidence with the intent to produce it for a fraudulent or deceitful purpose.

For example, if you asked someone to prepare a false document for you but that person does not know that the document will then be used to prove your innocence in a criminal trial or in any other proceeding authorized by law, that person cannot be charged with the offense of preparing false evidence, because they did not have the intent for it to be produced.

What Are the Penalties, Punishment and Sentencing Guidelines For Preparing False Evidence?

A charge of offering false evidence is a felony.  If you are convicted, the judge can issue a sentence of imprisonment for up to three years in state prison.  Specifically, you may be sentenced to 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in California state prison.  The judge also has discretion to issue a penalty of probation with up to 1 year in county jail, a fine, or both.

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Footnotes

  1. See Pen. Code, §134: Elements of the offense listed. []
  2. According to the language of Penal Code 134, the definition of “false” is fairly broad and includes evidence in the form of documents or photos that are real and true but that have for example been pre-dated to reflect that they were prepared earlier than the date they were actually prepared.  Similarly, the definition of “false” may include a document that is true on its face but is false when looked at the purpose for which it is being offered. []
  3. “A false matter or thing” can include things like a false or ante-dated book, paper, record, instrument in writing, or other matter or thing, including photos or other physical evidence like urine.  For example, the following evidence qualifies: a letter you prepared as evidence in traffic court wherein you forged the author’s signature; a copy of a will wherein you altered the content to increase the amount of a testamentary gift to yourself and presented it in probate court; a fake pink slip which you prepared and presenting to a DMV officer to prove ownership of a vehicle that does not lawfully belong to you.  See Pen. Code, §134: Definition of “matter or thing.” []
  4. The person preparing the false evidence must also have the intent to produce it or allow it to be produced for a fraudulent or deceitful purpose.  For example, if you asked someone to prepare a false document for you but that person does not know that the document will then be used to prove your innocence in a criminal trial or in any other proceeding authorized by law, that person cannot be charged with the offense of preparing false evidence, because they did not have the intent for it to be produced.  See Pen. Code, §134: Definition of “intent.” []
  5. “Fraudulent” or “deceitful purpose” means that you intended to use the false evidence for the purpose of deceiving others with the help of this false evidence.  See Pen. Code, §134: Definition of “fraudulent or deceitful.” []

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