Forgery is most closely associated with signing someone else’s signature, but it can also involve a number of other crimes including falsifying a document in order to obtain money or property. These crimes are all performed for the purposes of committing fraud, so if you are accused of forgery, Oceanside forgery lawyer Peter M. Liss warns that you will probably also face fraud charges as well.
Defining the Crime of Forgery
Just signing someone’s name isn’t automatically forgery, even if you do it on a legal document. Instead, California law requires that a forgery be performed for the purpose of fraud, so if you didn’t intend to commit fraud, then you didn’t actually commit a forgery. Beyond the common definition of forgery that involves signing someone’s name without permission though, California law also bans:
- Falsifying the seal of another person or institution, for example, if you know the state registrar’s office has a seal it puts on all official documents and you make your own version of the seal in order to create a fraudulent document.
- Faking someone’s handwriting, though again, this only is against the law if it is for the purpose of committing fraud. Merely showing that you can copy someone’s handwriting or using it to play a harmless prank on a friend is not a crime.
- Changing or falsifying a legal document or a document related to money, property or finances, for example, making a forged check or changing the name on a housing deed.
- Presenting a false document related to money, property or finances as though it’s real. This could involve either knowingly using a forged document or even attempting to cash in a fake lottery ticket or a fake check that has been sent through the mail.
Penalties for Forgery and Related Charges
If the forgery involved a check, money order or similar document that is worth less than $950, then it will be charged as a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail. Otherwise, the decision of whether forgery will be charged as a misdemeanor or felony will largely be left up to the prosecutor, although your Oceanside white collar crimes attorney may help convince him to charge the crime as a misdemeanor. Forgery of a seal is a felony and subject to a $950 threshold. When charged as a felony, the crime is punishable by up to 3 years in prison.
Because the intent to commit fraud is a cornerstone of this charge, it is almost always charged alongside other charges such as check fraud or credit card fraud. You might also face money laundering charges or identity theft.
One of the best ways to fight these charges is by showing the prosecution does not have enough evidence. After all, they must not only prove that you actually participated in a forgery, but also that you intended to commit fraud, which is not always easy. Unfortunately, many people accidentally provide the prosecution with this proof by saying something during police interrogations that can be used as evidence that they intended to commit fraud. This is why it is so important to work with an Oceanside fraud defense lawyer as soon as you believe you may be under investigation for this crime.
If you have been accused of forgery or believe you may be under investigation, please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free consultation with Oceanside forgery attorney Peter M. Liss to discuss your situation.
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