If you forge someone's name on a document, including a check, you are
looking for trouble. When you engage in forgery, you are creating a
false, written document or you have altered a genuine one with the
purpose of defrauding someone or some entity. Forgery is a felony. You
can go to prison for engaging in this unlawful practice.
What Qualifies as Forgery and Uttering
Forgery can be done via handwriting, typewriting, printing and
engraving. Uttering a forged document means that inauthentic writing
has been purposely offered as genuine. When the expression "uttering"
is used this indicates that a person has offered a document that has
been forged to someone else and has presented it as true and genuine,
with the intent of defrauding that person.
You don't have to commit forgery to be found guilty of uttering. When
forgery involves your signature you have become a victim of identity
theft, which is not tolerated.
Forgery includes changing an existing document or making a fake
document. If you are not John Doe the Third then do not pretend to be
and never sign a document of any kind with John Doe the Third's name.
You cannot sign another person's name without his authorization. This
can get you some time in the slammer and you can be fined as well.
Wills and checks are also often manipulated and forged with fraudulent
signatures. The courts do not look kindly upon forgers.
Proving forgery often entails hiring a graphologist or hand-writing
analyst who can determine via analysis if a signature has been forged
or a document altered.
Handwriting analysts are considered forensic document examiners, who
compare handwriting samples to determine who authored the writing. The
writing sample of the person whose signature is believed to have been
forged is called the examplar.
Additional Actions That Can Get You in
If you create a document, such as a letter, in the name of another
person without that person's authorization and knowledge this is
forgery. It is possible to be charged with forgery if you have made a
copy of a receipt and then add to that copy words that were not
contained in the original and then offer the copy as evidence because
the original has been lost, or you profess that it has been lost. Think
before you act and don't do something stupid that will land you behind
bars. Ignorance of the deceit that you are engaging in is no excuse.
Forgery also includes the act of creating an instrument in the name of
a non-existent person or in a fictitious name. This is as criminal as
forging the name of someone who does exist.
When drawing up a will, if an attorney fraudulently leaves out a
portion of that which he was instructed to include in the will and, as
a result, the estate, for example, passes on to the wrong person, this
is considered forgery. If an attorney inserts legacies of his own into
a will and then gets the signature of a sick person on the will without
informing him of the newly inserted legacies the insertions are
considered fraudulent and this is forgery.
Forgery is very much about intent. A person doesn't have to be injured
as a result of the forgery in order for the act to be criminal.
In the United States, interpreting what qualifies as forgery is
determined by three main offenses including intent to defraud, writing
and false-making. The punishment that you will receive for being
convicted of forgery depends on the degree of forgery, of which there
are three in the United States.
First, Second and Third Degree Forgery
Forgery in the third degree means a person falsely makes, completes or
alters a written instruction with the purpose of defrauding, injuring
or deceiving someone. This is a Class A misdemeanor.
Forgery in the second degree occurs when a person falsely makes,
completes or alters a written instrument so that it appears that the
instrument has been completed. Any forgery that is done to a public
record, prescription, deed, from a licensed physician, on an instrument
issued officially by a public office or an issue of publication
transportation transfer is an offense or a Class D felony.
Forgery in the first degree, or a Class C felony, means that attempts
were made to alter or complete or falsely make issues of securities by
the government, stamps, money or stocks and bonds by an organization or
Each state has its own punishment for forgery and for uttering. You can
be imprisoned for a year. Your punishment will be based in part on how
much money was involved in the forgery and if you have been previously
convicted of this same crime or of theft.