Forgery and Uttering are often charged together, but they are two distinct crimes under Florida law. A common forgery case involves a person forging another person's name on a check. In other words, signing someone else's name on a check. Uttering would be passing the check to a bank to withdraw funds from the account. Forgery is a felony with severe consequences that can affect the rest of your life. Even if the evidence is strong, there may be options available to you that avoid a felony conviction or jail time. Give the experienced Jacksonville criminal defense lawyers of SLG Law a call now to discuss your particular case.
What is Forgery?
Forgery is defined in Florida Statutes Section 831.01
. To prove the crime of forgery, the State must prove:
- You falsely made, altered, forged, or counterfeited a document, and
- you intended to injure or defraud some person or firm.
The typical forgery case involves someone being accused of signing someone else's on a check without that person's consent. For example, an employee of a business may have access to the company checks, but not authority to sign checks. If that employee signed a check, forging an authorized signer's signature, that person would be charged with forgery. It doesn't matter whether they did anything with the check. Simply signing (forging) the check is enough to be convicted of forgery. In a practical sense however, people are rarely just charged with forgery. The offense is usually discovered after the check is cashed. This is called uttering. The State will use the cashed check as evidence of the forgery, as well as video surveillance from the bank, handwriting exemplars, evidence of where the money went, and other evidence to try to prove that you were the one who forged the check and that your intent was to defraud someone. This is not as easy as it may seem. Call the experienced Jacksonville criminal defense attorneys of Shorstein, Lasnetski, & Gihon to discuss the evidence or lack of evidence in your forgery case.
What kind of documents can you be prosecuted for forging?
You can be prosecuted for forging the following documents:
- a public record,
- a certificate, a return or attestation of any clerk or register of a court, public register, notary public, town clerk or any public officer, in relation to a matter wherein such certificate, return or attestation may be received as a legal proof, or
- a charter,
- writing obligatory,
- letter of attorney,
- policy of insurance,
- bill of lading, bill of exchange
- promissory note, or
- an order, acquittance, or discharge for money or other property, or
- an acceptance of a bill of exchange or promissory note for the payment of money, or
- any receipt for money goods or other property,
- any passage ticket, pass or other evidence of transportation issued by a common carrier.
As you can see, the documents that qualify for prosecution of forgery are vast. However, the statute is not all-encompassing. If you have a question about whether the document you were charged with forging qualifies under the statute, give our Jacksonville criminal defense lawyers a call for a free initial consultation.
What if I forged the signature on a check, but someone else took it to the bank to cash?
The crime of forgery is complete once the making, altering, forging or counterfeiting of the document (i.e. a check) is done with the intent to commit fraud. What happens with the document after that is irrelevant, except as evidence or lack of evidence regarding whether you were the one who committed the forgery. If you were the one who uttered the check, there will usually be evidence that you actually had interaction with the check. Bank video surveillance, testimony of the receiving party, etc. If you did not utter the check, then the State may be limited in the available evidence against you. If the person who did utter the check was also arrested, that person's testimony may be the only evidence against you. This type of cooperating co-defendant testimony is highly questionable and often unreliable.
If you do cash the check, you could also be prosecuted for uttering. But if you sign someone else's name to a check from their account, and you intend an accomplice to go to the bank, tender it and withdraw cash, then you could be prosecuted for forgery, even if the accomplice never makes it to the bank. As discussed above, whether the State can prove that you were the one who forged the check or that you intended to defraud anyone are entirely different matters. Call the experienced criminal defense attorneys of Shorstein, Lasnetski, & Gihon for a free initial consultation on your Forgery case.
What are the potential consequences of a Forgery conviction?
Forgery is a Third Degree Felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison
. However, there are often several options available in these cases. For people with no or little prior criminal record, we may be able to negotiate a pretrial diversion program disposition where you complete some probation type conditions and the case is ultimately dropped. If you have no prior record, you may be eligible to get your record expunged. Even if pretrial diversion is not an option, there may be other options, including probation, home detention, etc. Whether you want to fight your case or whether you want to negotiate the lowest sentence possible, SLG Law's criminal lawyers can help.
What are the possible defenses to Forgery?
Common defenses to forgery include:
- you never intended for the document to be uttered or to be used to injure the listed victim (No intent to injure)
- you were not the one who created the forgery (The State can't prove that you signed the check)
- you had permission of the person who is alleged to have been injured
There are also always unique factual defenses. Every case is different. There may be legal and factual defenses to your case that you may or may not have considered. Give the experienced Jacksonville criminal defense attorneys of SLG Law a call to discuss your forgery case and possible viable defenses.
If you or a loved one has been arrested for or accused of
Call Shorstein, Lasnetski & Gihon Now!
Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorneys