Forgery is a crime that may not be readily apparent. You may even commit forgery and not realize it.

A forgery conviction can hit you hard – harder than many other crimes. While a conviction can result in prison, fines, and restitution, it can also reach far into your life. You could lose your job, get audited by the IRS, see your credit score reduced, get sued, and be disqualified for bank loans. It can also prevent you from entering into certain professions and from owning certain businesses.

Forgery is not a crime that you want to play around with. If you are charged with forgery or if you think you may be the subject of a forgery investigation, don’t wait to see what happens. Get legal representation immediately. 

You will need an experienced, educated attorney on your side, to build your defense and make sure that your rights are protected. You want the charges dropped or at least get the charges reduced. The only way you are going to do that is if you have a good criminal defense lawyer who has the training and experience to go head to head with prosecutors at the state or federal level and fight for you.

Overview of Forgery

Forgery, or uttering a false object or document, is the act of producing or forging something such as a work of art, banknote, signature, currency, or document. When a currency is the object of the forgery, it is called counterfeiting. When a person signs someone else’s name on a check, legal contract, diploma, license, identification, certificate, or another device, that is also a forgery. It is both a state and federal crime.

The impetus behind the action that is labeled as forgery is always the intention to defraud.

Types of forgery include:

  • Signing off on another person’s application, authorization, or form
  • Using a fake or false identification or form
  • Digitally or physically altering an official form or document

Forgery often occurs in corporations which is why it is considered a white-collar crime. Some of the most common documents that are forged include:

  • Income statements
  • Business record keeping books
  • Personal checks
  • Tax returns
  • Immigration documents (passports, visas, etc.)
  • Bank account records
  • Identification cards

Forgery is a broad crime that can take on many different forms. While the act must be carried out with the intent to deceive in order to be considered criminal, it can include a number of different scenarios, such as:

  • Misrepresenting or altering factual information such as monetary amounts or prices
  • Unauthorized use of official letterheads
  • Destruction of information that is vital to an investigation
  • Forging official documents or signature
  • Knowingly distributing or using a document that is fake or forged
  • Concealing property or assets during a bankruptcy

Forgery is a serious crime with serious consequences. If you are convicted, it can result in prison or fines, or both. Even if you commit forgery and don’t know you’ve committed the crime, it can still cause you a lot of trouble. That is why it is so important to have good legal counsel, whether you are legitimately guilty or not.

Federal Forgery Laws

There are federal laws on forgery, but it is also a state crime, so when does the crime of forgery get pushed to the federal level?

When a person intentionally possessed or creates false documents such as money orders, letters patent, military documents, postage stamps, money, or other instruments related to the United States government.

Under U.S. federal law, a person who possesses the intent to forge, counterfeit, falsely make, defraud, or alter any public government record or legal document is guilty of forgery and will be punished.

Most of the time, federal prosecutors get involved when the forged object is property of the U.S. government or an instrument of the U.S. government. Otherwise, it is prosecuted at the state level. However, large dollar amounts may also get the federal government involved as well. It usually involves millions of dollars and large corporations. 

18 U.S. Code Chapter 25 – Counterfeiting and Forgery

§ 470. Counterfeit acts committed outside the United States

§ 471. Obligations or securities of United States

§ 472. Uttering counterfeit obligations or securities

§ 473. Dealing in counterfeit obligations or securities

§ 474. Plates, stones, or analog, digital, or electronic images for counterfeiting obligations or securities

§ 474A. Deterrents to counterfeiting of obligations and securities

§ 475. Imitating obligations or securities; advertisements

§ 476. Taking impressions of tools used for obligations or securities

§ 477. Possessing or selling impressions of tools used for obligations or securities

§ 478. Foreign obligations or securities

§ 479. Uttering counterfeit foreign obligations or securities

§ 480. Possessing counterfeit foreign obligations or securities

§ 481. Plates, stones, or analog, digital, or electronic images for counterfeiting foreign obligations or securities

§ 482. Foreign bank notes

§ 483. Uttering counterfeit foreign bank notes

§ 484. Connecting parts of different notes

§ 485. Coins or bars

§ 486. Uttering coins of gold, silver or other metal

§ 487. Making or possessing counterfeit dies for coins

§ 488. Making or possessing counterfeit dies for foreign coins

§ 489. Making or possessing likeness of coins

§ 490. Minor coins

§ 491. Tokens or paper used as money

§ 492. Forfeiture of counterfeit paraphernalia

§ 493. Bonds and obligations of certain lending agencies

§ 494. Contractors’ bonds, bids, and public records

§ 495. Contracts, deeds, and powers of attorney

§ 496. Customs matters

§ 497. Letters patent

§ 498. Military or naval discharge certificates

§ 499. Military, naval, or official passes

§ 500. Money orders

§ 501. Postage stamps, postage meter stamps, and postal cards

§ 502. Postage and revenue stamps of foreign governments

§ 503. Postmarking stamps

§ 505. Seals of courts; signatures of judges or court officers

§ 506. Seals of departments or agencies

§ 507. Ship’s papers

§ 508. Transportation requests of Government

§ 509. Possessing and making plates or stones for Government transportation requests

§ 510. Forging endorsements on Treasury checks or bonds or securities of the United States

§ 511. Altering or removing motor vehicle identification numbers

§ 513. Securities of the States and private entities

§ 514. Fictitious obligations

New York Forgery Laws

Under New York law, a person who knowingly possesses or makes a forged instrument or document that confers liability or value in order to deceive or defraud someone else is guilty of the crime of forgery.

Felony forgery in the second degree involves certain types of counterfeit items:

  • Credit cards, commercial instruments, wills, deeds, contracts, or other instruments that might transfer, create, evidence, or otherwise affect a status, obligation, interest, or legal right.
  • Documents or public records that are authorized or required by law
  • Public instruments created or issued by a public servant or a governmental or public office
  • Certificates, public transportation transfers, tokens, or other items that are designed to be used in place of money for the purchase of services or property
  • Medical prescriptions for any instrument or device that is used to administer drugs, drugs, or any medical device

Forgery in the first degree involves forgery of these items:

  • Securities, stamps, currency, or other government-issued valuable instruments
  • Bonds, stocks, or other instruments that represent a claim against or interest in an organization such as a corporation

New York Penal Law – Article 170

170.05  Forgery in the third degree

170.10  Forgery in the second degree

170.15  Forgery in the first degree

170.20  Criminal possession of a forged instrument in the third degree

170.25  Criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second degree 

170.30  Criminal possession of a forged instrument in the first degree

170.40  Criminal possession of forgery devices

170.45  Criminal Simulation

170.47  Criminal possession of an anti-security item

170.55  Unlawfully using the slugs in the second degree

170.60  Unlawfully using the slugs in the first degree

170.65 Forgery of a vehicle identification number

170.70  Illegal possession of a vehicle identification number

170.75  Fraudulent making of an electronic access device in the second degree

Penalties for a Federal Forgery Conviction

A federal forgery conviction can put you behind bars for years. In some cases, the penalty is 25 years or more. There may also be fines either with or without a prison term.

18 U.S. Code Chapter 25 – Counterfeiting and Forgery

§ 470. Counterfeit acts committed outside the United States

  • The penalty is the same as a like offense within the U.S.

§ 471. Obligations or securities of United States

  • Maximum 20 years in prison
  • Fine

§ 472. Uttering counterfeit obligations or securities

  • Maximum 20 years in prison
  • Fine

§ 473. Dealing in counterfeit obligations or securities

  • Maximum 20 years in prison
  • Fine

§ 474. Plates, stones, or analog, digital, or electronic images for counterfeiting obligations or securities

  • Minimum 25 years in prison
  • Maximum fine $250,000

§ 474A. Deterrents to counterfeiting of obligations and securities

  • Minimum 25 years in prison
  • Maximum fine $250,000

§ 475. Imitating obligations or securities; advertisements

  • Fine 

§ 476. Taking impressions of tools used for obligations or securities

  • Maximum 25 years in prison
  • Fine 

§ 477. Possessing or selling impressions of tools used for obligations or securities

  • Maximum 25 years in prison
  • Fine 

§ 478. Foreign obligations or securities

  • Maximum 20 years in prison
  • Fine 

§ 479. Uttering counterfeit foreign obligations or securities

  • Maximum 20 years in prison
  • Fine 

§ 480. Possessing counterfeit foreign obligations or securities

  • Maximum 20 years in prison
  • Fine 

§ 481. Plates, stones, or analog, digital, or electronic images for counterfeiting foreign obligations or securities

  • Maximum 25 years in prison
  • Fine 

§ 482. Foreign banknotes

  • Maximum 20 years in prison
  • Fine 

§ 483. Uttering counterfeit foreign banknotes

  • Maximum 20 years in prison
  • Fine 

§ 484. Connecting parts of different notes

  • Maximum 10 years in prison
  • Fine 

§ 485. Coins or bars

  • Maximum 15 years in prison
  • Fine 

§ 486. Uttering coins of gold, silver, or other metal

  • Maximum 5 years in prison
  • Fine 

§ 487. Making or possessing counterfeit dies for coins

  • Maximum 15 years in prison
  • Fine 

§ 488. Making or possessing counterfeit dies for foreign coins

  • Maximum 5 years in prison
  • Fine 

§ 489. Making or possessing likeness of coins

  • Fine

§ 490. Minor coins

  • Maximum 3 years in prison
  • Fine 

§ 491. Tokens or paper used as money

  • Maximum 1 year in prison
  • Fine 

§ 492. Forfeiture of counterfeit paraphernalia

  • Maximum 1 year in prison
  • Fine 

§ 493. Bonds and obligations of certain lending agencies

  • Maximum 10 years in prison
  • Fine 

§ 494. Contractors’ bonds, bids, and public records

  • Maximum 10 years in prison
  • Fine 

§ 495. Contracts, deeds, and powers of attorney

  • Maximum 10 years in prison
  • Fine 

§ 496. Customs matters

  • Maximum 3 years in prison
  • Fine 

§ 497. Letters patent

  • Maximum 10 years in prison
  • Fine 

§ 498. Military or naval discharge certificates

  • Maximum 1 year in prison
  • Fine 

§ 499. Military, naval, or official passes

  • Maximum 5 years in prison
  • Fine 

§ 500. Money orders

  • Maximum 5 years in prison
  • Fine 

§ 501. Postage stamps, postage meter stamps, and postal cards

  • Maximum 5 years in prison
  • Fine 

§ 502. Postage and revenue stamps of foreign governments

  • Maximum 5 years in prison
  • Fine 

§ 503. Postmarking stamps

  • Maximum 5 years in prison
  • Fine 

§ 505. Seals of courts; signatures of judges or court officers

  • Maximum 5 years in prison
  • Fine 

§ 506. Seals of departments or agencies

  • Maximum 5 years in prison
  • Fine 

§ 507. Ship’s papers

  • Maximum 3 years in prison
  • Fine 

§ 508. Transportation requests of Government

  • Maximum 10 years in prison
  • Fine 

§ 509. Possessing and making plates or stones for Government transportation requests

  • Maximum 10 years in prison
  • Fine 

§ 510. Forging endorsements on Treasury checks or bonds or securities of the United States

  • Maximum 10 years in prison
  • Fine 

§ 511. Altering or removing motor vehicle identification numbers

  • Maximum 5 years in prison
  • Fine 

§ 513. Securities of the States and private entities

  • Maximum 10 years in prison
  • Fine 

§ 514. Fictitious obligations

  • Minimum 25 years in prison
  • Maximum fine $250,000

Penalties for a Forgery Conviction in New York

Penalties for forgery in New York can get you jail time and/or a fine, or probation. 

New York Penal Law – Article 170

170.05  Forgery in the third degree

  • Class A Misdemeanor
    • Maximum 364 days in jail
    • $1,000 fine or double the amount of the defendant’s gain

170.10  Forgery in the second degree

  • Class D Felony
    • Maximum 7 years in prison
    • Probation 

170.15  Forgery in the first degree

  • Class C Felony
    • Maximum 15 years in prison
    • Probation

170.20  Criminal possession of a forged instrument in the third degree

  • Class A Misdemeanor
    • Maximum 364 days in jail
    • $1,000 fine or double the amount of the defendant’s gain

170.25  Criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second degree 

  • Class D Felony
    • Maximum 7 years in prison
    • Probation 

170.30  Criminal possession of a forged instrument in the first degree

  • Class C Felony
    • Maximum 15 years in prison
    • Probation

170.40  Criminal possession of forgery devices

  • Class D Felony
    • Maximum 7 years in prison
    • Probation 

170.45  Criminal Simulation

  • Class A Misdemeanor
    • Maximum 364 days in jail
    • $1,000 fine or double the amount of the defendant’s gain

170.47  Criminal possession of an anti-security item

  • Class B Misdemeanor
    • Maximum 3 months in jail
    • $500 fine or double the amount of the defendant’s gain

170.55  Unlawfully using the slugs in the second degree

  • Class B Misdemeanor
    • Maximum 3 months in jail
    • $500 fine or double the amount of the defendant’s gain

170.60  Unlawfully using the slugs in the first degree

  • Class E Felony
    • Maximum 4 years in prison
    • Probation 

170.65 Forgery of a vehicle identification number

  • Class E Felony
    • Maximum 4 years in prison
    • Probation 

170.70  Illegal possession of a vehicle identification number

  • Class E Felony
    • Maximum 4 years in prison
    • Probation 

170.75  Fraudulent making of an electronic access device in the second degree

  • Class D Felony
    • Maximum 7 years in prison
    • Probation 

Defenses for Forgery

All cases are different which means that not all defenses are the same. Some of the more common defenses for forgery include:

  • There was no intent to commit forgery
  • The defendant did not know that they were committing forgery
  • Lack of legal capacity
  • Coercion
  • Weak evidence
  • Restitution
  • Actual loss vs intended loss
  • Illegal search and seizure
  • Discredit professional witness
  • Mistaken identity

Forgery is not a crime that you should take lightly. Even if you don’t go to jail and only get a fine or probation, it can still wreck your life. You don’t want that conviction hanging over your head for the rest of your life. You need an attorney who will fight for you and make sure that your rights are protected.

You need The Litvak Law Firm. Mr. Litvak has the skill, knowledge, and experience to successfully navigate the complex legal system at both the state and federal levels. His many years working with high-profile criminal cases has prepared him to go to bat for you in criminal court. Call today at (718) 989-2908 for your free phone consultation and get the representation that you need.