What Constitutes Forgery in Florida?
In Florida, forgery and counterfeiting are treated as felony offenses and so carry severe penalties. Forgery charges can have serious repercussions and should not be taken lightly, so if you are being investigated for or were recently charged with forgery, it is vital to speak with an experienced white collar crime lawyer who can help you form a credible defense.
The Elements of a Forgery Charge
To be convicted of forgery, the prosecutor must show that an alleged offender:
- Made, altered, forged, or counterfeited a written instrument;
- That falsely claimed to be that of another person or entity;
- And appeared to have legal significance; and
- Had the intent to injure or defraud someone else.
Although a person must intend to injure another to be convicted of forgery, he or she does not actually have to injure someone else to satisfy the elements of a forgery charge.
The document in question must be of a certain type to support a charge of forgery. The documents that are specifically protected by law, include:
- Public records, certificates, the attestations of a court clerk or notary public, but only when that document can be received as legal proof;
- Charters, deeds, wills, bonds, insurance policies, letters of attorney, bills of exchange on promissory notes;
- Orders, acquittances, or discharge documents for money or other property;
- Acceptances of a bill of exchange or promissory note for payment;
- Receipts for money, goods, or other property; and
- Transportation tickets issued by a common carrier.
Some of the most commonly forged documents include:
- Legal contracts;
- Identification cards;
- Legal records, including birth and marriage certificates;
- Historical papers;
- Property deeds;
- Licenses; and
- Art objects.
It is also a crime to offer a forged document in payment. Similarly, in order to sustain a forgery conviction, the alleged forger must have had the intent to defraud another and have had knowledge that the document was not an original.
Punishments and Possible Defenses
Although forgery is prosecuted at the state level, it can become a federal offense if it involves an alteration of government issued identification or an attempt at identity theft. Forgery offenses are third degree felonies and so are punishable by:
- A prison sentence of up to five years; and
- A $5,000 fine.
A conviction for forgery requires a demonstration that an alleged forger had the intent to defraud someone else. Without this element, a charge of forgery cannot stand. Another possible defense to a forgery charge is that the defendant did not know that the document was forged.
How an Experienced South Florida White Collar Crime Attorney Can Help
A charge of forgery could mean significant fines, jail time, and a felony conviction on a defendant’s record. Having a strong defense can be instrumental in avoiding these penalties, so if you live in south Florida and have been charged with a forgery offense, please contact Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. Criminal Defense Attorneys at 305-670-9919 and we will have a member of our dedicated legal team help you schedule an initial consultation with an experienced white collar crime attorney who can explain your legal options.