The white collar crime of forgery has taken on new significance because of widespread and profound changes in our society and the way we all transact business. First, forgery has become more common in recent years because of the ongoing increase in retail sales of merchandise over the internet. Customer information taken from a seller's website can easily find its way into forged documents. Additionally, many large business entities continue to report hacking activities that result in the copying of personal or customer data from their in-house computer systems. Finally, law enforcement authorities argue that there are a growing number of individuals who sell forged documents to people in need of a driver's license or some other form of identification, such as immigrants who are not in the country legally.
Here is a non-exclusive list of documents that frequently appear in forgery cases:
- Credit Cards
- Driver's Licenses
- State-Issued Identification Cards
- Prescriptions for Drugs
- Title Documents
- Marriage or Death Certificates
- Securities (Stocks or Bonds)
Because of the variety of documents and other materials that may be the subject of a forgery case, it is not unusual to see charges for forgery coupled with charges for other offenses including credit card fraud, check fraud, prescription fraud and theft by deception. Thus, a forgery case can be complicated because it can potentially involve an array of criminal charges.
To commit the crime of forgery, the defendant must have:
- Changed a document that belongs to someone else without receiving their permission to do so;
- Created, issued or transferred a document in a way that it purports to be the act of another person who did not authorize it, or represented falsely
- that the document was generated by someone who does not exist, or that it was a copy of an original when an original never existed;
- Offered a document as real, along with conduct or words demonstrating it was real, while knowing it was actually forged.
Also, the defendant must have done these things with the intent to injure or defraud someone else, or with the knowledge that he was facilitating someone else's fraudulent or injurious conduct.
In New Jersey state court, forgery typically begins as a fourth degree crime, exposing the defendant to a State prison sentence of 18 months. However, depending upon the facts and circumstances of the case, the forgery charge can be upgraded to a third degree offense, which can carry a prison term of five years. In addition to prison sentences, the defendant can also be obligated to pay fines and restitution for any financial loss that someone may have suffered as a result of the forgery.
Forgery offenses can be charged in both state and federal court. In fact, the United States Attorney's Office aggressively prosecutes cases involving the theft or fraudulent production of federal documents. As is often true, the fines and penalties imposed in federal court can be significantly larger than those imposed in state court.
Have you been charged with forgery in any New Jersey state court, or in a federal court in New Jersey or New York City? If so, you need a seasoned criminal defense attorney who frequently represents defendants accused of forgery and other white collar crimes. Do not make any statements to any representatives of law enforcement. Contact us to discuss your case, your options, and your defense strategy.