Forgery Laws

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What is forgery?

Forgery is defined as the creation, altering, forging, or imitating of any document with the intent to defraud another person. Making a signature without authorization or causing another person to fraudulently sign a document are also covered under forgery laws. 

Forgery laws may vary from state to state, but they all generally require the intent to defraud or deceive. Recently, forging documents has become a widespread method of achieving identity theft.

What is required to prove forgery?

All of the following elements must be satisfied when proving a person guilty of forgery:

What types of documents are subject to forgery laws?

Forgery is covered by both state and federal laws. Only documents with legal significance are considered under forgery laws. The most commonly forged documents are personal checks. Other types of documents that may be forged are:

·        Deeds and titles to property
·        Securities, stocks, and bonds (these are considered the most serious offenses)
·        Court seals and records
·        Corporate documents
·        Currency (money- also known as “counterfeiting”)
·        Money orders and promissory notes
·        Documents related to identities such as identification cards

Forgery of wills, contracts, public records, and commercial instruments may also be addressed by individual state criminal laws, though these may vary by state.

In addition, federal law maintains an extensive list of documents whose forgery will result in federal charges. For example, using a forged military ID to deceive airline workers is a federal offense. Forging treasury checks is another example of a federal offense. 

What are the legal punishments for forgery?

Depending on the nature of the forged document, forgery may be classified into three degrees. The first two are considered to be felonies and the third is usually classified as a misdemeanor:

Uttering a forged document occurs when the defendant makes reference to a forged document or represents a forged document as genuine. It is a separate offense from forgery. A person may be guilty of uttering a forged document even if they did not create the document being referred to.

Felony forgery charges will result in heavy fines, possible imprisonment in a federal facility, and loss or suspension of various civil privileges. Misdemeanor charges will result in fines and jail time of less than one year. 

Are there any defenses to forgery?

In some jurisidictions, it is a valid defense to forgery if the defendant had good reason to believe that they had authority to make such a document. Also, it is a valid defense if the person did not have the required specific intent to use the document to deceive another person. If the forgery involves the use of another person’s signature, it is a defense if the person in fact authorized the defendant to use their signature.

Should I hire a lawyer for forgery charges?

Whether you have been charged with forgery or are the victim of forgery, it is a good idea to consult with a lawyer. An attorney will be able to explain to you the details of your state’s forgery laws. 

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Last Modified: 06-03-2014 02:19 PM PDT

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