Crime Overview Forgery

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Forgery, which is considered a white-collar crime, is a non-violent crime committed for financial gain or deceit. It is similar to fraud, which is also a crime of deceit.

The Modern Penal Code (MPC sec. 224.1) states that a person is guilty of forgery if:

a) a actor or person alters any writing of any person,
b) makes, completes, executes, authenticates, issues, or transfers any writing so that it purports to be an act of another who did not authorize the act or to have been at the time or place or in a numbered sequence other than was in fact the case, or to be a copy of an original when no such original existed; or
c) utters any writing which he knows to be forged.

Forgery can include signing another person's name to a check, creating false contracts, altering identification documents or falsifying business records. It must be done with the intention to cheat a person, company or organization out of money, goods, services or information to be used for the personal gain of the forger. The document or object forged must have some legal significance to be considered a criminal forgery, and must look authentic enough to fool a reasonable person. For example, signing another person's name to a letter that has no legal significance is not forgery, but altering a person's last will and testament to establish your inheritance would be forgery.

Identify theft is a growing type of forgery. Assuming the identity of another person, whether for financial gain, or to alter immigration status, is a felony. Forgery must include the altering or counterfeiting of a written document or object. Forgery does not exist if a person is just claiming to be someone they are not, without using any documentation.

Counterfeiting is a form of forgery. While counterfeiting is most often associated with creating forged currency, it can also be used to create false stock certificates, or illegally copied CDs or DVDs that are sold in order for the forger to make a profit without paying royalties to the copyright owner.

Forgery can be a federal offense and is also recognized as a criminal act in all 50 states. The jurisdiction over the crime will be dependent upon the circumstances. If a forgery has implications for victims in multiple states, it will most likely be a federal offense. If forgery is committed to defraud the government, it is also likely to lead to federal charges.

While there are no mandated minimum charges for forgery crimes, it is a felony offense. Every state has different laws that pertain to forgery, but often a conviction leads to jail time of up to 10 years and significant fines. Being convicted of a felony can create problems with future employment opportunities, regardless of the amount of time spent in prison for the crime. If you are being charged with forgery, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help protect your rights.