Forgery is an age-old crime that can generally be explained as making, altering or imitating objects or documents with the intent to deceive. This usually involves altering documents or records of legal significance for financial profit. Passing off false documents is termed "uttering." The forging or uttering of false documents are both criminal acts in Massachusetts, and carry significant penalties.
Defenses To Forgery
The available defenses to a forgery or counterfeiting charge will depend on the case. In some cases, the possession of a forged document or forged note may be innocent, with the holder not knowing the document is false. Alternatively, in some cases an individual may have no intent to defraud another with the forged note. As soon as you become aware of a possible investigation, you should contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Dhar Law, LLP, in Charlestown. We are well-versed in these types of cases and how to defend against forgery charges.
Massachusetts' Forgery Laws
Massachusetts law dedicates an entire chapter of the General Laws to "Forgery and Crimes Against the Currency." This enumerates and separately classifies forgery among a number of documents and records. These include:
- Records, certificates, returns, attestations and other writings
- Railroad or admission tickets, passes or badges
- Note, certificate or bill of credit for debt
- Bank bill, note or traveler's check
- Counterfeiting coins or notes
Federal Forgery Laws
Federal law enumerates even more classifications of forgery than at the state level, for possible federal prosecution, including forgery of government checks or bonds. Depending on the crime, a defendant could be facing federal charges, state prosecution or both.
A number of law enforcement and government agencies may be involved in a forgery investigation. Oftentimes, forgery will initially be detected at the local level, such as forged checks or documents, and reported to local law enforcement. Law enforcement may then notify other agencies in advancing their investigation. This could include the U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Postal Service or the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The crime may then be prosecuted at the local level, or by the Department of Justice Office of the Attorney General.
One of the most serious crimes involving forgery is the making, altering, forging or counterfeiting of bills and bank notes. It can be punished by life in prison. Even possession of forged bills with the intent to use them fraudulently carries a penalty of up to five years in prison.
Forging or counterfeiting U.S. currency is a federal offense. U.S. currency and coins are considered "any obligation or other security of the United States." Penalties include hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines, and up to 20 years in prison.
Art And Collectibles Forgery
Art forgeries may seem like a minor crime to many. An artist may turn to replicating the style of famous painters to supplement their own artistic careers. Small-scale collectibles forgery may be difficult to detect, with a simple forged signature on a baseball can add hundreds of dollars in value. However, the law still treats art and collectibles forgery as fraud, and famous art forgers may spend decades in jail.
Forging documents involves a person falsely making, altering or using a false writing with the intent to defraud or injure another. The false writings must have some legal significance, which the forger falsely takes advantage of in order to deceive another who takes the document at face value.
Penalties for forgery will depend on the circumstances of the individual case. Most crimes of forgery are prosecuted as felonies with the possibility of jail sentences and hefty fines. Most state law violations could include a prison sentence of up to 10 years, though some violations carry a possibility of life in prison.
In addition to fines and jail time, an individual who is convicted of forgery may have to pay civil penalties, court costs and fees and restitution to the victims. Forgery charges could also be charged in conjunction with other violations arising from the same activities, including theft or larceny.
Enlist Our Knowledgeable Forgery Defense Team
Because each case is different, a full investigation into the specific facts is necessary to provide the best defense. Make sure your attorney understands the issues, the law, judges and juries and will fight for your rights in court.
At Dhar Law, LLP, our dedicated attorneys have years of experience representing clients charged with forgery and any number of criminal charges. If you are facing charges or are under investigation, or have any questions related to forgery or altering a document, please contact our offices today.