Forgery is a dirty word. Forgery is defined as the action of “forging” – or producing – a copy of a document, signature, banknote, or work of art. The word “producing” can be misleading. Someone can produce their own work, and thus it isn’t a forgery, as per common law. Perhaps the word “replicate” is better to use than “produce” when trying to understanding “forgery.” Most commonly, forgery is understood as the illegitimate replication of a signature on a bank checks, deed to a house, title to a car, court document, business contract, etc. Forgery is a serious crime and can carry serious penalties if the felon (yes, that’s right, felon) is caught committing the felony of forgery.
Florida state law minces no words when articulating what forgery is and how it is to be handled by the long arm of the law. According to Chapter 831.01 of the most recent set of Florida state statutes, anyone who commits forgery, i.e., “falsely makes, alters, forges or counterfeits,” any document with legal standing, or who utters, passes or tenders fake banknotes, is thereby guilty of having committed a third degree felony. These third degree felonies are punishable by up to 5 years in prison and carry a fine of up to $5,000. If you forge something, you are a felon. Be aware, though, that the above penalties only have to do withFlorida. If you forge someone’s signature on something like a bank check, business contract or car deed, and the piece of paper that you sign travels out of state or is involved with business across state lines, you are in for a treat known as federal punishment.
Furthermore, the penalties for forgery are contingent on how much money was to be gained through the forgery. For example, if you sign your name on a friend’s check and make the check out to yourself for $20, your penalty won’t be as severe as if you forge a business partner’s name on a business promissory note that would guarantee you ownership of a million-dollar bank account in a different state. In the second circumstance, you would be penalized more severely because you would be attempting to gain $1 million (as opposed to $20). Also, because the bank account in question is registered in another state than the one the document was forged in, you would be crossing state lines, and via the Interstate Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the federal government would have the ability to penalize you (in addition to the state penalizing you).
In addition to the fines and penalties associated with forgery, the guilty party is typically expected to repay the victim the amount of money that the victim lost as a result of the forgery. If the guilty party does not have the available funds on hand, often times their property will be seized and sold to repay the stolen money. This process of repaying the victim their lost money is known as restitution. The legal consequences of forgery extend past the prosecutor’s office. Civil lawsuits play an important role in determining what the guilty party owes the victim. The victim clearly would have endured damages as a result of the forgery, and therefore a personal injury attorney can represent the victim in an effort to recover damages for them which may cover financial losses, emotional distress, marital discourse, etc., all which may occur as a result of the forgery.
Forgery is a serious issue—and a serious crime. While many of us were at one point guilty of innocent, childlike wrongdoings like forging a parent’s signature on an early dismissal note in high school, the forgery discussed in this blog is much more unsettling and carries a much higher risk. This blog was intended to make you aware of the penalties associated with forgery and the rights you have as a victim of the crime.
If you feel that you have been a victim of forgery, please contact one of the attorneys at the Law Offices of Aronberg & Aronberg by calling us at 561-266-9191 or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.