What are the forgery laws in Pennsylvania?May 9, 2016
If you are charged with a forgery crime—even a misdemeanor—you should contact an attorney immediately. A conviction for any Pennsylvania forgery crime becomes part of your permanent criminal record whether the conviction is a felony or misdemeanor. A criminal conviction can hurt you when you are looking for a job or applying to rent a house or apartment. A convicted felon also loses the right to vote and carry firearms and can lose certain professional licenses.
Forgery in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, a person commits forgery if he does any of the following with the intent to defraud or injure another person:
- alter a document or any financial instrument without authority to do so
- create, make or complete any fictitious document or financial instrument, or
- use or present a forged document or other forged item for payment or exchange.
Types of Forgery Crimes in Pennsylvania
Forgery crimes are classified as both felonies and misdemeanors in Pennsylvania, depending on the type of document or instrument involved.
Felony of the second degree: In Pennsylvania, forgery is a felony of the second degree if the crime involves:
- an instrument issued by the government—paper money, securities or postage stamps, or
- an instrument representing an interest in a property or business, such as certificates of stock, bonds, or a certificate of interest in a business partnership.
The penalty for a felony of the second degree in Pennsylvania is up to ten years in prison and a fine up to $25,000.
Felony of the third degree: Acts of forgery are felonies of the third degree if they involve instruments such as a will, deed, contract, release, or other commercial instruments that evidence, create, transfer, alter, terminate, or somehow affect legal relationships. Forging a will or deed to property is a felony of the third degree in Pennsylvania because the documents affect ownership and inheritance of property, which are considered legal relationships. The penalty for a felony in the third degree is up to seven years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines.
Misdemeanor of the first degree: All other acts of forgery in Pennsylvania such as forging a personal check or cashing a bad check are misdemeanors of the first degree. Misdemeanors of the first degree are punishable by up to five years in jail or prison and fines up to $10,000.
A person charged with a forgery crime in Pennsylvania can raise any general defense available in a criminal case, such as mistaken identity—not being the person who committed the crime—or the defense that the crime did not occur (the signature on a document used in a financial transaction was not actually altered and the document does not contain a false signature, for instance).
A person charged with forgery also can raise the specific defense that he was authorized or believed in good faith that he was authorized to sign or alter a document, such as a check or financial contract.
The fact that the defendant was entitled to collect money from the victim or believed he was so entitled is not a defense to forgery if the defendant was not authorized to change or create a document or present the item for payment. Likewise, forging a receipt to state a debt was paid in full is a crime even if the debt actually was paid in full.
Contact Brian Zeiger
When you need a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania attorney to defend you when arrested and charged with a with a white-collar crime, contact Brian Zeiger. It is critical to have an experienced attorney advocating on your behalf. Brian Zeiger is an experienced criminal defense attorney who will vigorously defend your rights.
An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you determine whether you have any grounds for dismissal of the charges, explore plea options, or represent you at trial. Only someone familiar with the criminal court system and cases like yours will know how good your chances are for a favorable outcome. A knowledgeable attorney will take all of this into consideration, assist you in making decisions about your case, and protect your rights.
Contact The Zeiger Firm today at (215) 546-0340 for a consultation, and let us help you.