Forgery is the intent to defraud by signing the name of another person or of a fictitious person, or the intent to:
• falsely make,
• pass or attempt or offer to pass
any check, bond, bank bill, note, cashier’s check, traveler’s check, money order or any driver’s license or identification card issued by a governmental agency.
When it comes to forgery, most people immediately think of printing fake money, but the technical definition of forgery is much broader than that. Intentionally passing bum checks and making a fake ID are also both examples of forgery under Utah state law. Depending on the details of the case, in Salt Lake City and throughout Utah, a forgery charge can be as serious as a third degree felony. That means that the penalties for a forgery conviction can include severe fines and up to five years of jail time. Don’t make the mistake of facing forgery charges alone. If you’ve been charged with forgery, make sure to get the criminal defense attorney that will give you the best chance with the Utah justice system. A lawyer can help protect your rights and your good name.
Writing a Bad Check: Forgery also includes writing a bad check, which means making, drawing, uttering, or delivering any check or draft upon any bank or depository for the payment of money, knowing that there are insufficient funds.
The maximum penalty for a forgery conviction is 5 years and a $5,000 fine plus a surcharge. With forgery, a prison sentence is not mandatory, so a judge may suspend a prison term and place the defendant on probation.
That isn’t what makes a forgery conviction severe, though. The catch with forgery is that a prosecutor can typically add extra charges to it, such as attempted theft or theft by deception, and that he can do that for each person or business that was involved in the forgery charge. Each of those extra charges will then also become part of your trial. That of course can greatly increase the amount of punishment that you face as well as complicating any attempt to expunge your criminal record.
Forgery Defense Attorney Utah
Forgery is a type of fraud, which means that the level of punishment depends on what was stolen and how much it cost. It also means that, unlike more serious crimes, there is no minimum jail sentence and even the maximum is rather low.
However, forgery charges are only the tip of the iceberg. Like fraud, being charged for forgery also allows the accused to be charged with a variety of other crimes, all of which quickly add up in terms of both potential jail time and fines. If you’ve been accused of forgery, you need the help of our experienced, caring attorneys. We not only are experts at quickly resolving cases, but we also pride ourselves on our ability to protect your quality of life.
Utah’s forgery statute can be found in the Utah Criminal Code, Utah Code Ann. 76-5-601 (2017). The felony forgery statute is written very broadly to criminals not just the classical for going of another’s signature, but creating and using false identifications or false property deeds.
A person is guilty of forgery if, with purpose to defraud anyone, or with knowledge that the person is facilitating a fraud to be perpetrated by anyone, the person:
(a) Alters an Original Writing Without Authority. Alters any writing of another without his authority or utters the altered writing; or
(b) False Document Creation. Makes, completes, executes, authenticates, issues, transfers, publishes, or utters any writing so that the writing or the making, completion, execution, authentication, issuance, transference, publication, or utterance:
(I) purports to be the act of another, whether the person is existent or nonexistent;
(ii) Purports to be an act on behalf of another party with the authority of that other party; or
(Iii) purports to have been executed at a time or place or in a numbered sequence other than was in fact the case, or to be a copy of an original when an original did not exist.
The above elements of forgery are the classical forgery where the forger either alters an original document that was once authentic, but changes and alters the document in efforts and purposes to defraud people. An example of a forger altering an original document could be a check that was originally written for $100.00 dollars, but altered to state the check is in the amount of $1,000.00.
This “Altering” type of forgery is a 3rd Degree Felony in Utah.
The second type of forgery is where the forger complete creates a false document from nothing. An example could be a warranty deed purporting to convey a property interest to the forger. The warranty deed was completely made up and falsified. Another would be a falsely created Will purporting to convey an inheritance to the forger or a co-conspirator.
Most Common Forgery Cases
In Utah, one of the most common forgery crimes is check forgery. A conviction for check forgery requires the prosecution to show fraudulent intent or knowledge; therefore, lack of knowledge could be a sufficient defense against these charges.
In addition, signature forgery on official documents and court documents are also common types of forgery.
Defenses against Forgery Charges
One of the required elements that the prosecution must prove to convict you is that you knowingly or fraudulently committed the acts in question.
Presenting a successful defense against fraud charges may come down to showing that the accused genuinely believed that the document was authentic, or that the person committed the fraudulent act unknowingly and no fraudulent intent.
Forgery cases soaring in Utah
Police say forgery has become a major problem along the Wasatch Front because it’s easy to do and the penalties are light. Forgery rings that are run in a businesslike fashion are becoming common. Fueling the forgery problem is the fact that store clerks rarely ask for identification.
The experience of one Salt Lake couple highlights the growing problem. The couple had just returned from a three-day trip unaware that in the short time they were gone their names were being forged all over the valley. A new box of checks sent by their bank had been stolen from their mailbox.
The afternoon “Angela,” who asked that her real name not be used, arrived home; she received a call from a gas station attendant who suspected she had just been given a forged check. Angela confirmed that she had not written any checks that day.
Later, Angela received a call from a restaurant cashier who said a woman claiming to be Angela was attempting to buy food with another of her checks. When the employee realized the woman was passing a bad check, he called police and then delayed her order until officers arrived.
When West Valley police searched the woman’s purse, they found a credit card in the name of a man, two checks from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a Missouri driver’s license and a Social Security card for another woman and a fake check made out to Allco Leasing for more than $7,300, according to a police report.
On the back of the fake check were bank numbers and codes that could be used for making forged checks. Officers also found drug paraphernalia the woman claimed was hers, the report stated. The woman was arrested on several counts of forgery, possession of stolen property and drug paraphernalia. She also had two outstanding warrants for forgery and retail theft.
The woman said a man gave her five of Angela’s checks. She was able to pass four of the forged checks at Checker Auto, Kmart, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Sally Beauty Supply, the police report stated.
Later in the week, Angela and her husband learned their stolen checks were passed from Murray to Orem. As of Thursday, 53 of Angela’s checks had been forged and accepted by various stores.
Police say Angela’s ordeal has become all too common. In the past five years the number of forgery cases has tripled, said West Valley Police Detective Brooke Plot nick.
A typical forgery ring will include a person who steals checks. The check thief then either exchanges the checks for drugs or passes them out to several people. Those people, known as “mules,” will then try to spend the checks as fast as they can, sometimes buying things they don’t need. Those items can either be exchanged for drugs by the person who stole the checks or returned to other stores for cash.
The typical forgery ring will try to distribute checks in several police jurisdictions. South Salt Lake police officer Darin Sweeten said the idea is to slow down investigators.
The jurisdictional issue became a problem for Angela and her husband, who said they were often the ones who informed investigators that police in other jurisdictions were looking for the same person.
“In a 12-hour period, (forgers) can wreak more havoc than a team of detectives can investigate in 12 hours,” Day said.
There are two reasons forgery is so prevalent in the Utah, Day said. It’s easy to do and those who are caught typically don’t spend a lot of time in jail, he said. The typical forger is caught within 30 days after passing the first bad check, Day said. “These people are extremely sloppy,” he said. “They leave a trail that a blind man could follow.”
Unfortunately, forgers can do a lot of damage in those 30 days. “I feel sorry for (people who have checks stolen) because as soon as their stuff is stolen, their life is going to turn into a living hell in no time flat,” he said. “(The thieves) own you.”
A lot of the problem is perpetuated by cashiers who don’t bother to check I.D.
In Angela’s case, an employee at Checker Auto said he “was very busy at the time and accepted the (forged) check” without I.D., a police report stated.
A cashier at Albertson’s in Sandy accepted a forged check even though it was rejected when run through a “telecheck” machine. The store manager later became suspicious when she noticed the writing on the check looked “fishy” and the signature looked “juvenile,” according to a police report.
Nevertheless, the cashier accepted two checks, one for $326 and the other for $259.
At a pizza parlor next door, Angela said another one of her checks was accepted without anyone asking for I.D. When she called the restaurant later to ask them why they hadn’t, the restaurant told her it was not their policy, Angela said.
The liability for forged checks falls on the victim, the bank or the store where the check was passed, depending on the bank or credit union’s policy, said Sweeten.
Some banks will cover any loss suffered through forged checks and then try to collect it back from the merchants, he said. Some will only cover up to a certain amount while others will only cover checks after they are reported steal. So if a person doesn’t catch the forgery right away, the money is lost, Sweeten said.
Because there is no blanket policy for who is liable for forged checks, Sweeten suggested people check with their banks to find out their policies before they become victims.
Plot nick said he knows of one store that lost $500,000 in less than a year because of forged checks.
A forger could even sign a check with the name of his favorite Disney character and someone would accept it, Day said.
It’s easy for the average cashier to let his guard down, Day said. Many clerks are young people making minimum wage who look at hundreds of checks each day.
“Businesses are not taking the time to get proper identification,” said Utah Division of Consumer Protection director Francine Giani. “That, frankly, is a travesty.”
Giani said she has been in a store several times when the cashier said I.D. wasn’t necessary, even when Giani said she could show some
Consult with an Experienced Utah Defense Attorney
The criminal defense attorneys of Utah assist with all aspects of defending Utah forgery and related charges, from negotiating with the local prosecutor to representing you at trial or arguing for the best possible sentencing conditions.
Forgery Lawyer Free Consultation
When you need legal help to defend against forgery charges in Utah, please call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506