Forgery in Miami is a third-degree felony punishable by as many as five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. To prove forgery, prosecutors must have sufficient evidence that a person falsely makes, alters, counterfeits, or forges a document that has legal significance and had the intent to defraud and/or injure someone. A document that has legal significance, for example, includes a will, a check, a deed, a bill of lading, etc. What is not considered a document of legal significance is a random letter to someone.
Like forgery, uttering is a serious criminal offense and may be considered a felony in the third degree. Uttering happens most frequently when someone signs the name of another person on a document. This type of crime's reach is wide and is usually considered to use a document to defraud another person. When you deliberately use a fake instrument to hurt another human, it is also considered uttering.
Both forgery and uttering are deemed dishonest white-collar crimes. It's worth noting that you may still be charged with forgery even if a financial institution or government institution does not accept the forged document being submitted. This is because you fulfilled the requirement that you have the intention to injure another. It still needs to be proved, however, that the individual accused of forgery was aware that the document was fraudulent. This is up to the prosecution to prove the defendant knew they provided fabricated material. A few commonly forged documents may include:
- Sales receipts for products, property, or funds.
- Tickets for airfare or other types of transportation.
- Public records, court orders, or certificates.
In general, the majority of people are caught when uttering a forged instrument due to it being more difficult to detect the act of forging the instrument. Proof alone that a counterfeit instrument was uttered by the defendant does not determine by itself that the defendant fabricated or the instrument or that was it forged.
It's worth remembering that offenses involving forgery or uttering a forged instrument have differences. To prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the person who uttered a forged check is indeed the person responsible for the forgery, reliable evidence must be provided.
Since a forgery conviction usually includes being incarcerated, probation, fines and a lifetime criminal record marred with a "crime of dishonesty" that can impair one's chances of securing a student loan or finding work, it is important for the defendants to seek legal advice as soon as possible.
Judges will weigh the nature of the case during sentencing, as well as the previous criminal record of the defendant and whether a real injury was sustained due to the alleged conduct by the defendant.
Although forgery is usually punished at the state level, if it involves modifying a government-issued document or a particular attempt at identity fraud, the case may be upgraded to a federal offense.
It is not unusual for local law enforcement to alert and involve the United States Postal Inspector's Office in situations where it is suspected that a government document has been fabricated. Sometimes, a joint investigation may be undertaken by law enforcement authorities, and charges will be brought either in federal or state court, because they may have overlapping jurisdiction.
Common forgery defenses include:
- There was never any intention to utter the document or use it to injure a victim.
- You didn't create the forgery.
- The person who was allegedly injured granted you permission.
Forgery of patently absurd documents, such as a check written for an amount of a "zillion" dollars do not qualify as being capable of fooling people and therefore should not be deemed criminal forgery.
The general information provided above about forgery in Fort Lauderdale is meant for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for speaking directly with an attorney about the facts and circumstances of your case. Please call 954.500.0003 in Broward or 305.674.0003 in Miami to schedule a consultation with the Law Offices of Mark Eiglarsh.