Forgery is a type of fraud that may be charged at the state or federal level. Federal fraud may be investigated by a range of law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, the U.S. Secret Service and others. This white-collar crime comes with life-changing penalties, and it is also associated with social and professional stigmas that can remain with you for a lifetime.
Before charges are brought against you, the investigating agency may conduct a thorough investigation. Most defendants become aware of the investigation before charges are filed. As soon as you learn that you are being targeted in a forgery investigation, you will benefit from the professional expertise of an experienced federal criminal defense attorney.
Understanding Forgery Crimes
Forgery is defined is altering, making, using or possessing a false item with the intent of using it for fraudulent purposes. Often, artwork is the first type of forgery that a person thinks about, but forgery actually encompasses a wide range of other goods as well as documents. Forged items are often either used for personal gain or to harm another party.
In fact, everything from checks and diplomas to property deeds and more may be forged. In some cases, forgery overlaps other charges. For example, modern check fraud often overlaps cybercrimes. Property deed forgery may correspond with mortgage fraud. With these and other examples in mind, a defendant often will face a variety of crimes rather than a single count of forgery.
Penalties for Forgery Crimes
State-level forgery convictions may result in imprisonment in state-level jails. Federal-level forgery charges, which are generally more severe or involve activities that cross state lines, are tried in a federal court. If you are convicted of a federal forgery charge, you may spend between five and 10 years behind bars in federal prison. You also may have to pay a fine of up to $25,000. However, you may be fined for a larger amount depending on the nature of the charges and the dollar value of the fraud. In addition to these punishments, the court may order restitution and the seizure of your assets to pay the stolen funds to the victims.
Defense Strategies for Forgery Charges
The investigating law enforcement agency may spend ample time gathering evidence against the accused party. However, because of the nature of forgery crimes, investigations may be completed faster than with many other types of crimes that may have years-long investigations. Nonetheless, searches, property or evidence seizure and questioning may precede an arrest. In these situations, it is important to contact a forgery defense lawyer immediately. Your attorney may work to ensure that your civil rights are protected throughout the investigation. In some cases, such as may be the case with overreach during a search, collected evidence against the defendant can be ruled as inadmissible. If this or other factors are present in the case, it is possible for a skilled attorney to get charges dropped or to thwart an investigation before charges are filed.
If the matter proceeds to trial, your attorney may argue that you did not make the forged item. For example, a handwriting expert may provide testimony that your handwriting does not match the writing on the document. Another effective strategy is that you did not intend to use the item fraudulently. Intent or action is crucial in the prosecution of a forgery charge. Even if you created a fake document or item, forgery has not occurred if you did not intend for that item to be used for your gain or for someone else’s loss. If you are facing other charges in addition to a forgery charge or if other mitigating circumstances are present in the case, an experienced forgery attorney will masterfully craft a defense strategy that is specifically tailored to your case.
Request an Initial Legal Consultation
Now that you are facing a pending or active charge of forgery, your defense requires your full attention. Given the unique nature of a forgery charge and the fact that these charges may overlap other related charges, you may benefit from the expertise of a lawyer who specializes in this niche area of the law. To request an initial consultation with a forgery attorney, call or email our law firm today.
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