Denis O’Brien (defendant) was conveyed a tract of land and received the deed for it. O’Brien crossed out his first name on the deed and wrote in his wife’s first name, intending for the land to convey to his wife rather than to himself. He then had the altered deed recorded in the office of the county recorder. O’Brien later informed the county recorder of the alteration and requested that the recorder change the deed back to its original notation with his first name. The recorder reinserted O’Brien’s first name on the deed after obtaining the permission of the land’s conveyor and O’Brien’s wife. O’Brien was then charged under a statute that criminalized the willful alteration of a public record. O’Brien was convicted and sentenced to two years in state prison. O’Brien appealed.