What Is the Legal Definition of ''Instrument'' ?

In Generes v. Justice Court (1980) 106 Cal. App. 3d 678, 684, the court clarified the misconstruction of the term, "written instrument," by the court in People v. Fraser (1913) 23 Cal. App.. 82 [137 P. 276]. In Fraser, the court wrote: "Generally the term 'instrument' as applied to documents necessarily imports a paper writing; but every paper writing is not necessarily an instrument within the settled statutory meaning of the term. With reference to writings the term 'instrument' as employed in our statutes has been defined to mean an agreement expressed in writing, signed, and delivered by one person to another, transferring the title to or creating a lien on real property, or giving a right to a debt or duty. This definition of the term as applied to writings contemplated, created, and controlled by various code provisions, has been repeatedly followed and applied in a variety of cases. Thus, for example, it has been held that a notice of lis pendens is not an instrument in the sense contemplated by our statutes ; that a map is not an instrument within the meaning of the recording act ; that neither an attachment nor a judgment is an instrument within the meaning of section 1107 of the Civil Code , and that a notice of a claim of water-rights, although required to be recorded by section 1415 of the Civil Code, is not an instrument within the accepted definition of statutory instruments ." (Id. at pp. 84-85, italics added.) Based on its interpretation, the court concluded that a birth certificate did not constitute an "instrument" within the meaning of Penal Code section 115. (Fraser, supra, 23 Cal. App.. at p. 86.) Penal Code section 115, subdivision (a) provides: "Every person who knowingly procures or offers any false or forged instrument to be filed, registered, or recorded in any public office within this state, which instrument, if genuine, might be filed, registered, or recorded under any law of this state or of the United States, is guilty of a felony."