Altering documents after signing can lead to numerous consequences. Faking a signature without permission, making a false document, or changing an existing document are all considered to be a forgery. Forgery is a crime and punishable by law. Although penalties will vary from state to state, all fifty states consider forgery to be a felony. Forgery may appear in a variety of documents, such as legal contracts, historical papers, diplomas, licenses, and art objects, to name a few. The most common form of forgery is when a person chooses to sign someone else's name on a check.

Common Types of Documents That Can Be Forged

Tax returns, business and bank account records, immigration documents, and birth certificates are commonly falsified and can be a form of forgery. The term counterfeiting usually refers to the forging of currency or consumer goods. The writing must have significant legal ramification and be false to be considered as a forgery.

This might include the falsification of government-issued documents, such as driver's licenses and passports. Transaction documents are considered to be of legal significance as well; these are documents, such as deeds, grants, and receipts. Financial documents, such as money, checks, and stock certificates are documents that should never be falsified.

Three Common Types of Forgery

The top three most common types of forgery involve:

  • The act to falsely replicating another person's signature without permission is considered signature forgery.
  • Forging a doctor's name or the information on a prescription in its entirety to get medication is considered prescription forgery.
  • Art forgery is altering an art piece by adding an artist name in order to make it appear as genuine or as an original art piece.

Misrepresenting or altering prices or monetary amounts are acts of forgery. Even stating false information can be an act of falsifying documents when done in a certain context. Using official letterheads without permission and concealing assets in bankruptcy proceedings are all examples of falsifying documents.

What Is Forgery?

To be considered a crime of forgery, there must be an intent to deceive or commit fraud or larceny. If a person is not aware that they possess a document or item that has been forged or falsified, then they are considered innocent.

Let's say a person provides a service and receives a check for a payment and the check is a forged check. The service provider can cash the check and is innocent, as long as he or she has no knowledge of the check's forgery. If upon receiving the check, the service provider was told or learned of the check's forgery and then willfully cashes the check, he or she is considered to have committed a crime.

Most states consider forgery to be a serious offense and classify it as a felony. Each state will vary in penalties for the crime. A monetary fine and or incarceration are two common penalties for forgery. The degree of forgery committed and the penalty is most often dependent on the forged instrument or the intent of the forgery.

For example, the state of Connecticut considers the forgery of symbols a crime. This includes any token that is used to purchase items or services other than money. Another example can be seen in Georgia, where any adult who uses a fake I.D. to obtain a job risks going to prison for up to 15 years and is required to pay a fine of $250,000.

What Are Additional Consequences for Forgery?

It is important to understand that in addition to legal ramifications, like having to pay a fine and possibly being incarcerated, there are other consequences that a person may face if they decide to commit forgery. For example, a person may:

  • Lose employment
  • Find it difficult to obtain employment
  • Receive a reduction in one's personal credit score
  • Not be eligible for immigration proceedings
  • Not be able to obtain a passport
  • Be audited by the IRS on a regular basis

If you happen to own your own business and you are convicted of committing forgery, you will need to hire an attorney to help you get the most favorable outcome. In fact, this applies to anyone who has committed forgery or is being charged with forgery or possession of a stolen instrument. Because the consequences are so harsh for these crimes, you will need a criminal defense attorney to present a strong case of defense to ensure the best possible outcome is obtained.

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