Allegations of document forgery, particularly with the intent to defraud, are pursued aggressively by local law enforcement and prosecutors in South Florida.
At The Ansara Law Firm, our Fort Lauderdale forgery defense attorneys are committed to helping our clients vigorously fight these types of charges, or else reduce the potential negative impact the offense will have on their future.
Because a forgery conviction typically carries jail or prison time, probation, fines and a lifelong criminal record marred with a “crime of dishonesty” that can affect one’s chances of getting a student loan or landing certain employment, it’s imperative for defendants to seek legal counsel immediately.What Is Forgery?
The Florida law that makes it a crime to commit forgery is F.S. 831.01.
The statute defines forgery as the false making, altering, forging or counterfeiting of a public record/ document, certificate return or attestation of any:
- Clerk or registrar of a court;
- Public register
- Notary public;
- Town clerk;
- Any public officer.
In these cases, there must be some relation to a matter where that certificate, attestation or return would be received as a form of legal proof.
Forgery can also include falsely making, altering, forging or counterfeiting documents or records that pertain to a:
- Writing obligatory;
- Letter of attorney;
- Policy of insurance;
- Bill of lading;
- Bill of exchange or promissory note;
- Order/ acquittance/ discharge for money or other property;
- Acceptance of a bill or exchange or promissory note for payment of money;
- Any receipt for money/ goods/ other property;
- Any passage ticket/ pass or other evidence of transportation issued by a common carrier.
In these cases, the defendant must have had the intention to injure or defraud another person to be convicted of forgery. However, although prosecutors must prove the defendant had specific intent to injure or defraud, it is not necessary to prove the individual was actually injured or defrauded in order to obtain a conviction.
Some examples of some of the most commonly-forged documents include:
- Historical papers.
- Checks (separate from F.S. 832.05, which deals specifically with worthless checks).
- Credit card invoices.
- Travelers checks.
- U.S. Treasury checks.
- Property deeds.
- Identification cards.
- Money orders.
- Legal contracts.
- Legal records, including birth and marriage certificates.
- Art objects.
It should be noted that F.S. 831.01 pertains specifically to written instruments. Meanwhile, there is a separate violation for uttering a forged instrument, as found in F.S. 831.02. This involves uttering and publishing as true the false, forged or altered record, deed, instrument or other writing as mentioned in F.S. 831.01 knowing it to be false or forged and with the intent to injure or defraud.Penalties for Forgery in Fort Lauderdale
Both forgery and uttering forged instruments are considered third-degree felonies under state law.
Per F.S. 775.082, punishment for a third-degree felony carries a maximum sentence of:
- Five years in prison.
- Five years of probation.
- $5,000 in fines.
During sentencing, judges will often consider the sophistication of the operation, as well as the defendant's prior criminal record and whether actual harm was suffered as a result of the defendant's alleged actions.
While forgery is generally prosecuted at the state level, it can become a federal offense if it involves altering some government-issued identification or a specific attempt at identity theft.
It’s not uncommon in cases where it is alleged a government check was forged for local law enforcement to notify and involve the U.S. Postal Inspector’s Office. Often, law enforcement agencies will conduct a joint investigation, and charges can be filed either in state or federal court, as they may have concurrent jurisdiction.Defenses to Forgery in Florida
In every criminal case, our defense lawyers examine the circumstances to determine whether there is a factual defense that could be raised to assert reasonable doubt as to the defendant’s role in alleged crime. We would also explore the actions of investigators and law enforcement officers to determine whether a motion to suppress is appropriate.
Specific to forgery, our South Florida defense attorneys will look closely at whether:
- You intended to injure or defraud. Prosecutors must prove intent to secure a conviction. If we can raise reasonable doubt as to your intent, you may avoid conviction.
- You didn’t forge a “document” as defined by state law. The types of documents outlined in the statute are pretty broad, but that doesn’t mean the definition is limitless. If you didn’t forge a document as outlined in the statute, you may have a viable technical defense to the charges against you.
- Lack of knowledge that the writing was forged.
Because forgery carries such serious penalties, we recommend anyone facing such charges promptly consult with an experienced defense attorney.
If you have been charged with forgery in South Florida, contact the Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Lawyers at The Ansara Law Firm by calling (877) 277-3780.