Penal Code Section 72 punishes those individuals who attempt to defraud government institutions by presenting fraudulent claims, bills, or vouchers.1

Section 72 violations also encompass fraudulent claims presented to the following agents of any government entity:

  • any insurer,
  • private company,
  • corporation,
  • mutual association,
  • trust fund, or
  • interinsurance exchange

Elements of the Offense

To prove a violation under Section 72, the prosecution must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The defendant presented a claim, bill or some other demand for payment to a government entity or its agent;
  2. AND

  3. The defendant’s claim for payment was made with the specific intent to defraud the government entity.2

Given the specific intent element, it may be a defense if the defendant was not aware that his claim was false.3

Examples of Section 72 Violations

  • A doctor tendered Medi-Cal service reports to the State expecting payment for psychological services that were never provided to patients.4


A person who presents fraudulent government claims may be punished by either a felony or a misdemeanor in the following manner:

  1. A felony violation carry a term of local prison (county jail) of up to three years as defined by Penal Code Section 1170(h), and a fine not to exceed $10,000.5
  2. A misdemeanor violation with up to one year in the county jail, and a fine of up to $1,000;


If you are charged with attempting to defraud the government by presenting a false claim or voucher, you should seek the advice of a competent criminal defense attorney immediately. It is strongly recommended that you refrain from giving a statement to law enforcement unless you have first obtained the advice of an experienced criminal attorney. Prosecutors often have difficulty proving a defendant’s specific intent and mental state beyond a reasonable doubt without a statement by the defendant.

Penal Code Section 72 violations should be aggressively defended by examining the totality of the circumstances and quickly conducting a competent investigation.

1Penal Code § 72.

2People v. Rainville (1974) 39 Cal.App.3d 982, 987.

3People v. Rainville (1974) 39 Cal.App.3d 982, 987

4People v. Cobbs (1975) 53 Cal.App.3d 937, 941.

5Penal Code § 72.


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